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Short-Term Energy Outlook

Release Date: July 11, 2017  |  Next Release Date: August 8, 2017  |  Full Report    |   Text Only   |   All Tables   |   All Figures

Coal

Coal Supply

EIA estimates that coal production declined by 169 million short tons (MMst) (19%) in 2016 to 728 MMst, the lowest level of coal production since 1978. In 2017, growth in coal-fired electricity generation and exports is expected to lead to an increase of 57 MMst (8%) in total U.S. coal production. Production in the Western region is forecast to increase by 26 MMst. Increases in production from the Appalachian region and the Interior region are expected to be 16 MMst and 15 MMst, respectively. In 2018, total coal production is expected to remain relatively unchanged, with declines in Appalachian region production offset by increases in Interior region and Western region production.

Electric power sector coal stockpiles were 166 million tons in April 2017 (the last actual data point), up 1% from the previous month. This increase in total coal stockpiles is normal during the spring when the power sector builds coal stockpiles for use during the summer months when demand for electricity is greater.

Coal Consumption

Electric power sector coal consumption is forecast to increase by 9 MMst (1%) in 2017, mostly because of rising natural gas prices. In 2018, demand for coal in the power sector is expected to increase by 2 MMst.

Coal Trade

Coal exports for the first quarter of 2017 were 58% higher than in the same quarter last year, with steam coal exports increasing by 6 MMst. The trend continued in April, with exports 58% higher than in April 2016. EIA expects growth in coal exports to slow in the coming months, with exports for all of 2017 forecast at 72 MMst, 12 MMst (19%) above the 2016 level. Exports are expected to be 63 MMst in 2018.

Atlantic and Gulf Coast electric power generators are forecast to generally maintain their current levels of coal imports, which are primarily from Latin America. Total U.S. imports are estimated to have been 10 MMst in 2016 and are forecast to remain between 9 MMst and 10 MMst in 2017 and 2018.

Coal Prices

EIA estimates the delivered coal price averaged $2.11 per million British thermal units (MMBtu) in 2016, which is 5% lower than the 2015 price. Coal prices are forecast to increase in 2017 and in 2018 to $2.15/MMBtu and $2.21/MMBtu, respectively.

U.S. Coal Summary
  2015 2016 2017 2018
Prices (dollars per million Btu)
Electric Power Sector 2.23 2.11 2.15 2.21
Supply (million short tons)
U.S. Coal Production 897.0 728.2 785.6 786.8
Imports 11.3 9.8 9.4 9.7
Exports 74.0 60.3 71.9 63.2
Consumption (million short tons)
Electric Power Sector 738.4 677.3 686.7 688.2
Other Sectors 59.7 52.2 51.9 52.6
Total Consumption 798.1 729.5 738.6 740.8
End of Period Inventories (million short tons)
Electric Power Sector 195.5 163.9 148.0 148.7
Total Inventories 238.4 203.3 185.5 187.6

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