US coal exports explode as global demand outpaces oil and gas

According to the US Energy Information Administration, coal production will fall 1.7% in 2011 hampered by widespread flooding in the west of the country. It is a steeper decline than previously forecast and the agency also predicts a further decline next year.

Nevertheless, strong demand from Asia and Europe for steam and metallurgical coal has pushed US coal exports up 35% in the first half of the year and should reach above 100 million tons by year’s end, the highest level in nearly 20 years.

Global coal consumption advanced 7.6% last year and at a faster pace than crude oil, natural gas and nuclear, according to statistics published by oil giant BP. Coal now accounts for 30% of global energy use, the highest since 1970.

Steel Guru reports the agency also removed tonnage from its 2012 forecast, saying US production will increase 0.3% next year rather than the 1.8% it forecast in its July outlook. Production in the Appalachian region increased in the first half of the year.

Coal Age reports in 2010, the US exported just more than 81 million tons of coal. Steam coal exports through June 2011, excluding lignite and anthracite, increased 88% to 18 million tons, and metallurgical coal exports increased nearly 18% to 35 million tons.

Lower European Union carbon-permit prices, sulfur dioxide regulations and a shift away from nuclear power in Germany will probably boost EU demand for coal, said analysts at Bloomberg New Energy Finance in London on Friday.

According to the annual BP Statistical Review of World Energy released in June coal’s share of global energy consumption rose to 29.6% last year, the highest since 1970 and up from 25.6% a decade ago. China which overtook the US as the world largest energy consumer saw its consumption grow by 10% and consumed nearly half of the global coal total of 3.55 billion tonnes of oil equivalent.

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