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Short-Term Energy Outlook

Release Date: January 9, 2018  |  Next Release Date: February 6, 2018  |  Full Report    |   Text Only   |   All Tables   |   All Figures

Coal

Coal Supply. EIA estimates that coal production increased by 45 million short tons (MMst) (6%) in 2017 to 773 MMst, as demand for U.S. coal exports increased. In 2018, total U.S. coal production is expected to decrease by 14 MMst (2%). Production in the Western region is forecast to decrease by 5 MMst, and production in the Appalachia region is forecast to decrease by 25 MMst. The expected production decline in the Appalachia region and the Western region is primarily a result of the projected declines in coals exports. Declines in these regions are expected to be partially offset by a 15 MMst increase in Interior region production. In 2019, total coal production is expected to decline by 18 MMst (2%), and declines in Appalachian region production and Western region production again partially offset by increases in Interior region production.

Coal Consumption. Coal consumption in the electric power sector is estimated to have declined by 12 MMst (2%) in 2017, as several coal power plants retired. Consumption in the electric power sector is forecast to decrease by 10 MMst (1%) in 2018 and by 27 MMst (4%) in 2019. The decrease in power sector consumption reflects lower natural gas prices and coal power plant retirements.

Coal Trade. Coal exports through the first 10 months of 2017 were 70% higher than in the same period last year, and the 78 MMst exported through October is 18 MMst (29%) more than coal exports for all of 2016. EIA estimates total coal exports for 2017 were 95 MMst, with steam coal exports at 41 MMst. EIA expects that metallurgical coal exports will be more than 50 MMst in both 2018 and 2019, but steam exports will decline by 34% in 2018 and by 15% in 2019. Total coal exports are expected to be 80 MMst in 2018 and 75 MMst in 2019.

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 8 MMst in 2017 and are forecast to be 9 MMst in both 2018 and 2019.

Coal Prices. EIA estimates the delivered coal price averaged $2.10 per million British thermal units (MMBtu) in 2017, which was 1 cent/MMBtu lower than the 2016 price. Coal prices are forecast to increase to $2.21/MMBtu in 2018 and to remain at that level in 2019.

U.S. Coal Summary
  2016201720182019
Prices (dollars per million Btu)
Electric Power Sector 2.112.102.212.21
Supply (million short tons)
U.S. Coal Production 728.4773.0758.7741.2
Imports 9.88.39.29.3
Exports 60.395.180.174.7
Consumption (million short tons)
Electric Power Sector 678.6666.4656.5629.5
Other Sectors 52.352.452.453.1
Total Consumption 730.9718.9708.9682.6
End of Period Inventories (million short tons)
Electric Power Sector 162.0142.9131.4130.5
Total Inventories 193.0168.8157.3160.0

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