By Tyler Godwin
January 13, 2021 - The US is estimated to produce 602.6 million st of coal in 2021, the Energy Information Administration said in a Jan. 12 report, lowering its estimate from a month ago by roughly 21.2 million st, or 3.4%.
However, the 2021 production would be 15.6% higher than the estimated 55-year low 537.2 million st produced in 2020, while 2022 production is estimated at 627.8 million st, the EIA said in its January Short-Term Energy Outlook. The 2021 production estimate was only the second decrease in the last six months.
Power-sector coal consumption is projected to be 493.8 million st in 2021 and 539.5 million st in 2022, up from 434.3 million st in 2020. Average stockpiles in the electric sector are expected to decline to 134.6 million st in 2021, from 139.6 million st in 2020. Inventories are expected to fall again to 116.8 million st in 2022. Total consumption, including by petcoke plants and retail, is estimated at 537.1 million st in 2021 and 581.4 million st in 2022, up from 476.3 million st in 2020. Coal is expected to make up 22.4% of US power generation in 2021 and 24.1% in 2022, compared with 19.9% generated from coal in 2020. Renewables are projected to make up 21.3% of the stack in 2021 and 22.7% in 2022, up from 19.6% in 2020. Power generation from natural gas is estimated at 35.7% in 2021 and 33.6% in 2022, compared with 39.3% in 2020. The estimated decrease in natural gas generation is largely due to a drop in dry gas production and rising gas prices, and is forecast to average 88.17 Bcf/d in 2021 and 89.65 Bcf/d in 2022, down from 90.77 Bcf/d averaged in 2020. The EIA projects the spot Henry Hub gas price to average $3.13/MMBtu this year and $3.40/MMBtu in 2022, compared with $2.11/MMBtu in 2020.
Exports to Rise From Four-Year Low
Coal exports are projected to be at 81.9 million st in 2021, up from the four-year low 66.5 million st in 2020. Exports are expected to increase again in 2022 to 92.1 million st. Thermal coal export volumes are estimated at 31.7 million st in 2021 and 35.4 million st in 2022, up from 24.4 million st in 2020. The remaining 50.2 million st in 2021 are expected to be metallurgical coal exports, while 2022 exports are projected at 56.7 million st. In 2020, the US exported roughly 42.1 million st of met coal. Exports are expected to make up 13.6% of the total US coal production in 2021 and 14.7% in 2022, up from 12.4% in 2020, according to EIA data.