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Today in Energy

March 23, 2012

U.S. coal production in 2012 falls below five-year range

graph of Weekly U.S. coal production estimates, as described in the article text
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Weekly Coal Production.
Note: Production data prior to September 2011 was provided by the MSHA, post-September 2011 data are preliminary EIA estimates.
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Coal production the week ending March 10, 2012 was below the five-year range and 10% lower than the week ending March 12, 2011, according to weekly preliminary estimates from the U.S. Energy Information Administration and the latest quarterly production data from Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA). Warm weather this winter along with high stockpile levels and strong competition from natural gas depressed demand for coal by U.S. electric generators, which accounted for over 93% of total domestic coal use in the first nine months of 2011.

Production declines were most pronounced in Appalachian coal basins where some mine operators (including Consol Energy, Royal Coal Corporation, and Alpha Natural Resources) have chosen to idle mines in the face of weakened demand.

Coal production rose slightly in 2011, driven largely by exports of bituminous coal from the Appalachian and Interior regions to Asian markets. Flooding in early 2011 disrupted the coal mining industry in Australia, the world's largest coal exporter. Australian production, however, returned to near pre-flood levels during the second quarter of 2011, dampening demand for U.S. coal on the world market.

graph of Weekly U.S. coal production estimates, by basin, as described in the article text
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Weekly Coal Production.
Notes: Central App and Northern App refer to the Central and Northern Appalachian basins. Illinois Basin is a major coal basin in the Interior region. Production data prior to September 2011 was provided by the MSHA, post-September 2011 data are preliminary EIA estimates.