Metallurgical, or coking, coal exports expected to decline
Overseas demand for coal used in steelmaking is expected to grow by more than 30 percent in the next two decades, but most will come from Australia and other countries as higher-cost exports from the United States decline.
Demand for metallurgical, or coking, coal used to come from China and India, but India will surpass China as the largest user, experts said on Tuesday at the Met Coal World Summit 2013 in the Omni William Penn Hotel, Downtown.
China's steel industry appears destined to decline because of real estate overbuilding that cannot be sustained, among other factors, said Philipp Englin, CEO of researcher World Steel Dynamics in Englewood Cliffs, N.J.
“It's our view that this machine could come to a grinding halt within three years,” Englin said. “It would not surprise us.”
Exports of met coal slowed recently but remain at historically high levels, said Jim Truman, analyst with Wood Mackenzie in Annapolis.
Overall met coal demand will rise from 261 million tons in 2012 to 394 million tons by 2035, Truman predicted. Asian growth will account for about 92 million tons; domestic, South American and European demand will account for the rest. China's demand will peak by 2025 and decline by 2035 as its growth in steel disappears, he said.
U.S. exports likely will be priced out of the market as Australian met coal re-enters the market, Truman said. Recent growth in U.S. exports of met coal “was largely due to our position as a swing supplier,” he said.
In 2011, Australia's coal industry was disrupted when floods washed out key rail and road links. Water swamped mines in Queensland state, paralyzing operations that produced 35 percent of Australia's exportable coal.
A U.S. decline in met coal exports would place more strain on a coal industry hit hard by dropping demand for steam coal, the low price of natural gas and the Obama administration's push to use cleaner-burning natural gas and renewable power sources.
Consol Energy Inc. has high hopes for the export market. Its recent $3.5 billion deal to sell five West Virginia mines that produce coal for power plants to Murray Energy Inc., a St. Clairsville, Ohio, coal producer, did not include four export-oriented mines: the Bailey and Enlow Fork mines in Greene County, the Bailey Mine Extension (BMX) slated to come online in spring, and the Buchanan Mine in Virginia, which produces mainly metallurgical coal.
Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Upper St. Clair, said strict environmental policies could affect even met coal mining.
“There is a bright future for coking coal,” he told the several hundred coal and steel industry executives. “Win-at-all-costs environmentalism that helped cut coke production in America by 75 percent in the last 40 years could eliminate the final 25 percent if we're not careful.”
Demand for met coal from India will overtake China in the late 2020s, Truman said. But its main suppliers will be Australia, Mozambique, Russia and Canada.
U.S. exports are expected to decline by 15 to 20 percent, he said. Met coal exports from the United States rose from about 15 million tons a year between 2002 and 2006, then grew to about 55 million following Australia's floods.
During the past five years, growth in the world steel industry has been nil, expect for China, which grew this year at about 6 to 7 percent, Englin said. The potential for decline in exports rests with whether China can continue to absorb its steel output, used mainly to build apartments.
Yet a slowdown in China could help overall steel production in the United States by reducing Chinese imports, Englin said.
John D. Oravecz is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7882 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Highmark lays off nearly 100 workers, mostly in IT, as membership declines
- Mylan closes $5.3B tax-lowering deal with Abbott Labs
- Rue21 adjusts for tough market
- Few in Westmoreland County opposed to expansion plan for Mariner pipeline
- Refinery turbulence drives up pump prices
- Oilfield employee cutbacks may benefit long-haul trucking
- Wolf tax proposal puts Beaver County Shell plant at risk, gas group head says
- Western Pa. builders earn top honors for work
- Rocket firm hired to probe deadly air bags
- Whistle-blower incentives advance
- Make me a match: Fidelity to match some IRA contributions