Third Quarter 2020 Highlights Include:
"After an extremely challenging second quarter of 2020, we saw steady improvement in the demand for our coal throughout the third quarter of 2020," said Jimmy Brock, Chief Executive Officer of CONSOL Coal Resources GP LLC, the general partner of the Partnership. "Our sales volumes at the Pennsylvania Mining Complex were nearly double those of the second quarter, and we expect to see further improvements in the fourth quarter of 2020 and into next year. Our domestic customers were able to reduce their inventories, as hot summer weather and higher natural gas prices led to an increase in domestic coal burn. We have also seen a steady pickup in contracting activity since the second quarter and are focused on filling out the remainder of our sales book for 2021. In the meantime, we have successfully completed several transactions to enhance our liquidity and improve our financial flexibility. We continue to prioritize limiting any discretionary spending and ensuring that our operations are optimized to take advantage of the continued improvement in the coal markets."
"On the safety front, our Enlow Fork mine and Bailey Preparation Plant each had ZERO recordable incidents during the third quarter of 2020. Our total recordable incident rate at the PAMC for the third quarter of 2020 improved significantly by 60%, compared to the third quarter of 2019."
Sales & Marketing
Our marketing team sold 1.1 million tons of coal during the third quarter of 2020 at an average revenue per ton sold of $40.55, compared to 1.6 million tons at an average revenue per ton sold of $46.59 in the year-ago period. The decline in sales tons for the quarter was the result of lingering effects of the unprecedented contraction in U.S. and global economic activity due to the COVID-19 pandemic. On a positive note, demand steadily improved throughout the third quarter relative to the second quarter of 2020, and we ran four of our five longwalls for the majority of the third quarter. Shipments to domestic customers rebounded from the low point in the second quarter resulting in a significant reduction in contract buyouts and deferrals in the third quarter compared to the second quarter.
On the domestic front, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) expects U.S. coal production of 525 million tons in 2020, a 26% reduction versus 2019 levels. However, due to the expectation of higher natural gas prices next year, resulting from reduced E&P activity, the EIA estimates that coal production will rebound to 625 million tons in 2021, a 19% improvement versus 2020. The number of active U.S. gas rigs continue to trend downward. IHS Markit reports that active U.S. gas rigs stood at 74 as of October 2nd, a reduction of 70 rigs versus the same time period in 2019. We believe these factors will continue to improve coal's competitiveness as we close out 2020 and head into 2021.
During the quarter, we were successful in securing additional coal sales contracts for 2021, bringing our contracted position to 3.3 million. We are currently in the middle of domestic RFP season, and we expect to secure meaningful volumes in the coming months. We remain fully contracted for 2020 and expect to ship all that we produce in the fourth quarter. However, given the nature of our contracts and the timing of deliveries, we could see some 2020 contracted volumes deferred. We will continue to collaborate with our customers to manage our respective contractual obligations.
On the international front, while seaborne thermal coal markets have been slower to recover than the domestic market due to reduced global LNG prices and the continued impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have begun to see some positive trends there as well. Although API2 prompt month prices declined 12.4% in the third quarter of 2020 compared to the year-ago period, API2 prices increased nearly 50% as of early-October 2020 compared to the year-to-date trough marked in late-May 2020. These European coal prices are at their highest level since October 2019. Due to supply constraints, we have seen Petcoke prices from the U.S. Gulf increase by over 30% during the quarter, which is pushing buyers, specifically at cement plants across the globe, to look at alternative fuels. Additionally, LNG prices into Japan/Korea are currently at an 11-month high as of mid-October 2020. We are also starting to see a pickup in activity in India, as its economy begins to recover from COVID-19-related shutdowns.
During the third quarter of 2020, we ran four of our five longwalls for the majority of the quarter after ramping up an additional longwall in early August, driven by increased demand for our coal resulting from hot summer weather, higher natural gas prices and economies reopening. As a result, our production in the third quarter of 2020 was nearly double the output of the second quarter of 2020 with the Pennsylvania Mining Complex producing 1.1 million tons, compared to 1.6 million tons in the third quarter of 2019.
Total costs during the third quarter of 2020 were $54.8 million compared to $70.4 million in the year-ago quarter. The decline in overall costs was driven by the reduction in production volume and reduced operating days, as we sought to match production with demand and limit any unnecessary spending. Average cash cost of coal sold per ton1 was $28.64 compared to $32.78 in the year-ago quarter. The improvement was primarily driven by lower mine maintenance and supply costs, contractors and purchased services costs and project expense, offset by a higher than typical number of longwall moves in the third quarter of 2020.
Quarterly Distribution Remains Suspended
During the third quarter of 2020, CCR generated net cash provided by operating activities of $10.8 million and distributable cash flow1 of ($1.6) million after accounting for estimated capital expenditures of $8.7 million. During the quarter, our net cash provided by operating activities was impacted by lower net income. On a positive note, actual cash capital expenditures for CCR were $3.9 million in the third quarter of 2020. As a result, CCR was able to reduce outstanding debt on its affiliate loan by approximately $4.9 million. The board of directors of our general partner maintained the suspension of our cash distribution for all unitholders given the commitment to delever the balance sheet and restrictions on distributions in our credit agreement at the current leverage level.
Given the ongoing uncertainty associated with the COVID-19 pandemic-driven economic slowdown, we are working with our customers to manage their shipments and inventory levels. However, due to the difficulty in forecasting the duration of this economic slowdown, our 2020 guidance remains suspended. Nonetheless, our team remains ready for and is looking forward to eventual demand recovery.
1 "adjusted EBITDA", "distributable cash flow", "average cash cost of coal sold per ton", "average cash margin per ton sold" and "net leverage ratio" are non-GAAP financial measures, which are reconciled to the most directly comparable GAAP financial measures immediately below the caption "Reconciliation of Non-GAAP Financial Measures."
To read the full results with all financial figures included, click here.