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Russian, Colombian competition continuing to slow US thermal coal exports

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2019

US thermal coal exports continue to slow this year due to significant competition from rival Russian and Colombian output, S&P Global Platts Analytics said Monday.

“Central Appalachian and Northern Appalachian exports remain out of the money for shipment to Europe and Illinois Basin coal has significant price competition from Russian and Colombian coals, driving the drop in US exports,” according to Platts Analytics.

A market source told S&P Global Platts on Monday a trade was done for 38,000 mt of IB coal sailing out of the US Gulf Coast to Morocco.

Although uncertain of the exact price of the cargo, “it was … cheap,” he said, since the cargo had to have been priced under Russian material as the seller likely needed to liquidate inventory by the end of the calendar year. The source added that it was “not a single bloodbath, but spread out for all” with multiple parties included.

“We do not believe that even the lowest cost producers from the IB, NAPP and CAPP can ship into Europe with an acceptable cash margin,” Platts Analytics report said, with the analysts adding that they expect a significant fall in US thermal coal exports in 2020 to about 31 million mt.

In September, Platts Analytics noted exports fell 2 million mt year on year to 2.6 million mt “as lower Atlantic Basin prices weighed on volumes.”

And on Monday, Platts Analytics reduced its CIF ARA price outlook to $58.50/mt for 2020 “on the back of a downward revision to our TTF gas price forecast for 2020.”

“We believe the low seaborne price forecast will see Atlantic Basin producers reduce exports to Europe and seek price-opportunistic exports to the Pacific Basin in [the second half of 2020], after the impact of higher freight rates in [the front half of 2020] begin to be absorbed by the market,” the analysts added.

In the first nine months of 2019, US thermal exports were more than 10 million mt below the year-ago period’s total, and vessel tracking data show October exports are expected to come in close to September levels.

Platts Analytics maintained its 39 million mt forecast for 2019 thermal coal exports, compared with about 49 million mt last year.
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