By Hector Forster
November 8, 2018 - Australia, the largest seaborne coking coal exporter, is expected to see total metallurgical coal export volumes reach 176 million mt in 2018, well below a recent high in 2016, Wood Mackenzie said Wednesday.
Australia exported a high of 189 million mt of met coal in 2016 and may be unable to catch up this year due to logistics curtailments and limited mining growth, said Jim Truman, Wood Mac's director for global met coal markets.
"Exports have not recovered to where they were in the last few years," Truman told the MetCoke World Summit in Pittsburgh.
The consultancy saw continued shortfalls due to Queensland rail operator Aurizon's focus on cost cutting and maintenance limiting prior rail availability.
The U.S., a traditional swing supplier, may see coking coal exports capped at around 54 million mt going forward after shipments rose from 50 million mt in 2017. The supply and shipment growth for met coal exports is limited by U.S. rail bottlenecks, as demand rises in domestic markets and competition from other rail cargo segments hits availability.
The U.S. saw met coal exports slow in September, which may be due to China tariffs limiting met coal trade, Truman added.
He said that "54 million mt may be the cap currently for U.S. exports, unless we see rail improvements."
"U.S. exports need a little more help on the rail side."
Wood Mac added that high-vol HCC markets in the U.S. may tighten due to an incident at Ramaco Resources' Elk Creek mine processing site in West Virginia. The hit may depend on how Ramaco manages and recovers from supply cuts for processed coal after the largest of three raw coal silos was damaged and washing was stopped.