U.S. coal imports

Although the United States produces a large amount of coal—about 772 million short tons in 2017—some 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. In 2017, the United States consumed about 718 million short tons of coal. The United States imported nearly 8 million short tons of coal in 2017, mostly from South America.

U.S. coal exports

The United States is a net exporter of coal, meaning that it exports more coal to other countries than it imports. In 2012, U.S. coal exports reached a record high of 126 million short tons, equal to 12% of U.S. coal production. U.S. coal exports declined each year from 2012 through 2016 and then increased in 2017. In 2017, the United States exported about 97 million short tons of coal—equal to about 13% of U.S. coal production—to at least 42 countries.

The top five destinations of U.S. coal exports and their shares of total coal exports in 2017 were

  • India—11.8%
  • South Korea—9.7%
  • The Netherlands—9.7%
  • Japan—7.9
  • Brazil—7.8%
  • Total share of top five—46.9%

The United States exports metallurgical coal and steam coal. Metallurgical coal can be used for steel production, and steam coal can be used for electricity generation. Metallurgical coal dominates U.S. coal exports.