February 7, 2021 - US coal exports fell to a four-year low 62.66 million mt in 2020, down 25.6% from 84.23 million mt exported in 2019 and the second-lowest figure in the last 11 years, only higher than the 54.68 million mt shipped out in 2016, according to US Census Bureau data released Feb. 5.
December coal exports ticked lower to 6.35 million mt, down 0.3% from 6.37 million mt in November, but up 7.9% from 5.89 million mt in the year-ago month.
Thermal coal exports also dropped to a four-year low 24.46 million mt in 2020, down 28.6% from 34.24 million mt in 2019.
In December, roughly 2.63 million mt of thermal coal was shipped out of the US, down from the 18-month high 2.98 million mt in November, but up from the 1.98 million mt exported in the year-ago month.
The top originating ports for thermal coal in 2020 were Baltimore at 9.23 million mt and Seattle at 4.28 million mt, down from 9.9 million mt and 4.36 million mt, respectively, in 2019. New Orleans and Norfolk, Virginia, also shipped out 3.81 million mt and 3.2 million mt, compared with 9.9 million mt and 2.46 million mt, respectively, a year earlier.
Bituminous exports were at 2.21 million mt in December, down 15.4% from November, but 43.5% higher than a year ago.
India received the largest volume of thermal coal at 989,102 mt in December, up from 923,271 mt in November and 211,342 mt in the year-ago month.
Rounding out the top three was Japan and the Netherlands, which was shipped 314,058 mt and 280,244 mt in December, compared with 274,190 mt and 252,910 mt in the year-ago month.
Subbituminous exports were at 255,553 mt in December, down 10.5% from November and 31.4% from a year ago.
Roughly 151,786 mt of subbituminous coal was exported to Japan, up from zero in November and 88,003 mt in the year-ago month. South Korea was shipped 90,383 mt in December, down from 272,380 mt in November and 192,871 mt in December 2019.
Total bituminous exports were at 20.44 million mt in 2020, down 27.1% on the year, while subbituminous exports were at 3.5 million mt, down 38.5% year on year.
For the year, the top bituminous coal export destinations were India, at 7.62 million mt compared with 7.37 million mt in the year-ago period; the Netherlands, at 2.1 million mt compared with 4.27 million mt; Dominican Republic, at 2.02 million mt compared with 513,201 mt; Japan, at 1.68 million mt compared with 3.74 mt; and South Korea, at 1.19 million mt compared with 849,077 mt.
Over 2.64 million mt of subbituminous coal was shipped to South Korea in 2020, down from 3.43 million mt in 2019. An additional 547,813 mt was exported to Japan, up from 193,220 mt a year earlier, while Mexico received 232,950 mt in 2020, down from 1.47 million mt in 2019.
Met Coal Exports Rise to Nine-Month High
Metallurgical coal exports rose to a nine-month high 3.72 million mt in December, up 9.8% from November but 4.9% lower year on year.
It was the most in a month since 3.88 million mt was exported in March but was the lowest total for the corresponding month since 2.85 million mt in December 2015.
China was shipped 664,771 mt in December, up from 354,165 mt in November and zero in the year-ago month. Canada was shipped 612,446 mt in December, up from 345,827 mt in the year-ago month, while exports to Brazil and India totaled 431,409 mt and 391,403 mt, respectively, compared with 634,697 mt and 363,850 mt in the year-ago month.
Met coal exports were at a four-year low 38.2 million mt in 2020, down 23.6% from a year ago and the lowest since 37.13 million mt in 2016.
Roughly 61% of the US exports in 2020 were metallurgical coal, while the remaining 39% was thermal, compared with 59.4% and 40.6%, respectively, a year ago.
For the year, the top metallurgical coal export destinations were Brazil, at 6.18 million mt compared with 6.64 million mt a year ago; India, at 4.04 million mt compared with 4.27 million mt; Canada at 3.38 million mt compared with 3.82 million mt; Japan, at 3.3 million mt compared with 6.03 million mt; and Ukraine, at 3.24 million mt, compared with 4.16 million mt a year ago.