US Coal Exports – The Long Road to Asian Markets

Coal demand in the US power sector has decreased significantly since 2008 as competition from shale gas has developed and new environmental regulations has made coal less attractive. To offset the loss on the domestic market, US coal mining companies have turned to the export market. Since 2010, they have actively developed their coal exports and achieved record levels in 2011 and 2012. However, exports have decreased since 2013 as coal prices have fallen and competition between exporters has become fierce. As most US ports are located on the East and the Gulf Coasts, Europe has traditionally be the main outlet for US coal exports. But US steam coal exports collapsed in 2014 because of a loss of competitiveness of US coal in Europe. Due to the current and future importance of Asia in the international coal markets, US exporters have turned their attention to the Asian market and have been able to capture new market shares in Asia. However, US steam coal exports to Asia are constrained by the lack of export capacity on the West Coast despite several proposals to build new export terminals. Recent market development and strong environmental opposition have impeded the development of coal terminals in the Pacific Northwest so far.
The report reviews the existing and proposed US coal port infrastructure, with a special focus on the Northwest Coast and steam coal exports. It analyses market, regulatory and environmental challenges US exporters have to face when developing new export routes and it assesses future coal exports according to different scenarios.

By: Sylvie Cornot-Gandolphe

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