According to coal industry analysts, this could not come at a better time for U.S. coal miners who face slow-growing domestic consumption amid tough environmental rules and competition from plentiful, cheap, cleaner natural gas surging from new shale plays.
Analysts say total U.S. coal exports could amount to around 100 million tons this year, leaving only Australia and Indonesia above it in the world export rankings, and putting it above Russia, Colombia and South Africa.
It exported 81.5 million tons in 2010. Annual U.S. coal exports have hit or exceeded 100 million tons only six times in the last 50 years.
But world prices of over $100 a ton seem here to stay due to strong demand, logistical bottlenecks and slow export growth in major producers this year.
The only problem is squeezing enough coal through over-stretched ports and railroads, but efforts are underway to open new outlets thanks to surging confidence in the sector.
Arch has agreed to buy International Coal Co and has opened a Singapore-based subsidiary to boost its export presence. According to Arch executives, while 35 gigawatts of U.S. coal-fired generating capacity, 11 percent of the total, could be shut down in the next 10 years, 249 gigawatts of new coal-fired power plants are under construction worldwide.
Total seaborne thermal and coking coal trade in 2009 was 1 billion tons a year, according to the World Coal Association.
Ports on Chesapeake Bay, at Mobile, Alabama, and the lower Mississippi River around New Orleans, are at maximum capacity. New flows are coming to Corpus Christi and Houston, Texas, on the Gulf Coast. Other U.S. coal is flowing into the Pacific Basin from Vancouver and the newer port of Prince Rupert in northern British Columbia, both in Canada. U.S. steam coal is even going to usually self-sufficient South America. (Solve Climate News, 5/15/2022)