August 16, 2017
Neither the dead nor the living read their obituaries. Coal isn’t reading them because it isn’t dead.From the 2nd quarter of 2016 to the same period this year, coal production rose almost 17 percent. The number of new met mines in Central Appalachia rose from 155 to 212 in the year ending in June, said Argus Coal.
Offshore demand for U.S. met coal has soared by 60 percent this year. In fact, the U.S. is exporting more coal to every major region, including the EU, where shipments are up by more than a third over 2016. Nuclear plants are struggling in the UK and in France, creating surprisingly strong demand for U.S. coal. Steam coal exports to Asia, where grids are still growing, have doubled.
Here at home, coal at least for now is holding its own. EIA’s recent short-term forecast has coal narrowly edging out national gas for power generation this year, as it has most every year before 2016. That year, an anomaly, gas grabbed 34 percent of the market, pushing down coal’s share to 30 percent.
But the gas inventory glut that dampened gas prices last year is waning, leading EIA to project coal to continue its recovery next year when it narrowly wins the market share rivalry with gas. With each energy source claiming about a third of the market, nuclear power’s growth stagnant and renewables sans hydropower at not yet 10 percent of the market, baseload power still relies heavily on fossil energy.