The United States is a net exporter of coal
The United States exports more coal to other countries than it imports from other countries (net exporter). The United States imports and exports steam coal and metallurgical coal. Steam coal is primarly used for electricity generation, and metallurgical coal is primarly used for steel production. In 2022, steam coal accounted for 75% of total U.S. coal imports, and metallurgical coal accounted for about 54% of total U.S. coal exports.
The United States exports coal to many countries
U.S. coal exports reached a record high of 125.7 MMst in 2012, equal to about 12% of U.S. coal production. In 2022, the United States exported about 85.9 MMst of coal—equal to about 14% of U.S. coal production—to 71 countries. Exports to five countries accounted for about 56% of total U.S. coal exports.
- The top five destinations of U.S. coal exports, the amount exported—in million short tons (MMst)—and their percentage share of total coal exports in 2022 were:1
- India 16.25 MMst 19%
- The Netherlands 12.17 MMst 14%
- Japan 8.07 MMst 9%
- Brazil 6.43 MMst 7%
- South Korea 5.23 MMst 6%
The United States imports some coal
Although the United States produces most of the coal that it consumes, it imports coal to meet some domestic demand. For example, coal-burning power plants along the Gulf Coast and the Atlantic Ocean sometimes find it cheaper to import coal from other countries than to obtain coal from U.S. coal-producing regions.
U.S. total annual coal imports reached a record high of about 36.4 million short tons (MMst) in 2007. In 2022, the United States imported about 6.3 MMst of coal—equal to about 1% of U.S. coal consumption in 2022—from 11 countries, and 98% of U.S. coal imports in 2022 were from five countries.
- The top five source countries for U.S. coal imports, the amount imported—in million short tons (MMst)—and their percentage share of total U.S. coal imports in 2022 were:2
- Colombia 4.04 MMst 64%
- Canada 1.77 MMst 28%
- China 0.22 MMst 3%
- Indonesia 0.14 MMst 2%
- Belgium 0.04 MMst 1%
2 Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Quarterly Coal Report, Table 18, April 2023.