These are the US top coal basins
The Uinta Basin of Colorado and Utah saw its coal output continue to slide in the second quarter, down almost 285,000 tons from the previous period despite growth at some of its busiest mines.
According to an SNL analysis of U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration data, regarding active mines in the basin, the decline put the region on track to finish the 12-month period down 8.4% from the same period last year.
The basin has been especially hard hit over the past year by declining demand from U.S. electric generators as utilities continue to shift toward low-cost natural gas at the expense of coal.
Central Appalachia Basin
Even some of the top-producing mines in Central Appalachia are producing less coal as producers with a large footprint in the region find it increasingly difficult to keep business going in today's market.
According to an SNL Energy analysis of U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration data, of the top 25 producing coal mines in Central Appalachia, 13 produced fewer tons in the 12 months ended in the second quarter than the prior-year period. The top 25 mines accounted for a cumulative 9.4 million tons of production in the second quarter, down about 16.2% from the 11.2 million tons the same mines produced in the year-ago period.
The region's thermal and metallurgical coals are challenged by weak markets on domestic and international fronts. The outlook could soon become even grimmer as producers begin to cut back production in response to new federal regulations including the Clean Power Plan and the Stream Protection Rule, which affect coal-fired power plants and coal mining operations, respectively.
Northern Appalachia Basin
Despite the malaise suffered by the broader coal market, several of the industry's top mines in the Northern Appalachia Basin continue to pull out large quantities of coal.
Coal from the region is known to more easily compete for market share against the Illinois Basin and Powder River Basin. This is in contrast with some of the issues faced in Central Appalachia, where more than half of the 25 top-producing coal mines are run by operators now in bankruptcy.
According to an SNL Energy analysis of U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration, some of the top-producers in the Northern Appalachia region include mines owned by CONSOL Energy Inc., Murray Energy Corp., Alpha Natural Resources Inc., Alliance Resource Partners LP, Arch Coal Inc.and Westmoreland Coal Co.
After surging in the first quarter, output at the top producing mines in the Illinois Basin fell by almost 5 million tons during the second quarter of this year and remained down around a million tons from the same period in 2014.
According to data compiled by the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration, output from the 25 most productive coal mines in the region fell from 28.4 million tons in first quarter 2015 to 23.6 million tons in the second three-month period. The basin's production remained lower than the 24.7 million tons produced during the same period a year ago.
However, the region finished the 12-month period up around 7.5% from the same period last year, climbing from 97.5 million tons in 2014 to 104.8 million tons for the period ended June 30.
Powder River Basin
Production in the largest U.S. coal supply region, the Powder River Basin, fell 9.4% in the second quarter from the same time in 2014 as competitive natural gas prices, unit retirements and weather-related delays offset the benefits of the basin's cost advantage to other U.S. coals.
PRB output fell to 90.3 million tons in the second quarter, down from 99.6 million tons in the prior-year period. The decline occurred even as U.S. rail performance has improved from 2014's battered levels, with heavy rains in the 2015 quarter flooding mines and disrupting deliveries.
"Our PRB operations received more than [their] average annual rainfall in less than two months late in the quarter,"Peabody Energy Corp.'s CFO Amy Schwetz said during a July 28 earnings call. "While wet weather continued during the first several weeks of July, shipments are ramping back up."