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Coal explained Coal imports and exports

The United States is a net exporter of coal

The United States exports more coal to other countries than it imports from other countries. The United states imports and exports steam coal and metallurgical coal. Steam coal can be used for electricity generation and metallurgical coal can be used for steel production. In 2020, steam coal accounted for 94% of total U.S. coal imports, and metallurgical coal accounted for about 61% of total U.S. coal exports.

U.S. coal imports

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 million short tons in 2007. In 2020, the United States imported about 5 million short tons (MMst) of coal, which was equal to about 1% of U.S. coal consumption in 2020.

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In 2020, the United States imported coal from about 16 countries, and nearly all of U.S. coal imports in 2020 were from five countries.

  • The top five source countries of U.S. coal imports, the amount imported (in million short tons), and their percentage shares of total U.S. coal imports in 2020 were:
  • Colombia 3.66 MMst 72%
  • Indonesia 0.60 MMst 12%
  • Canada 0.45 MMst 9%
  • Russia 0.28 MMst 5%
  • China 0.11 MMst 2%

U.S. coal exports

U.S. coal exports reached a record high of 126 MMst in 2012, equal to 12% of U.S. coal production. In 2020, the United States exported about 69 MMst of coal—equal to about 13% of U.S. coal production—to about 60 countries, and 57% of U.S. coal exports went to five countries.

  • The top five destinations of U.S. coal exports, the amount exported, and their percentage shares of total coal exports in 2020 were:
  • India 12.85 MMst 19%
  • Brazil 7.89 MMst 11%
  • South Korea 6.53 MMst 9%
  • Japan 6.10 MMst 9%
  • The Netherlands 5.80 MMst 8%

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Last updated: May 27, 2021