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Februari 7, 2013

The Long and Short of Coal’s Success


Tuesday, October 16th, 2012

Admittedly, there haven’t been too many reasons for us to get excited over coal during the last several years — not here in the United States, anyway.

Coal carries with it a stigma the industry is desperately trying to shake.

And it’s this dirty reputation that has put coal at a huge disadvantage in the U.S…

(I’ve never been a fan of the clean coal myth.)

But 90% of our coal consumption — approximately 900 million short tons every year — goes toward electrical power, feeding over 1,400 generators across the country.

Coal also happens to be our largest source for electricity:

coal electricity generation

Coal’s share in our electrical generation has been slowly falling over the last ten years — and according to the EIA, natural gas has been gaining traction for nearly a decade.

Not only is our gas production at record levels, but the U.S. is building the infrastructure to match it.

In the last 20 years, nearly all of the new electric generators built in the U.S. are geared toward natural gas:

generators 10-12

Just last week, the proposal for the first new power plant fueled exclusively by Marcellus Shale gas was approved. The plant is slated for construction in Pennsylvania.

To put that into decision into perspective, remember that nearly 60% of Pennsylvania’s power in 2000 came directly from coal…

That amount dropped to less than half just ten years later.

These upcoming power plants are in addition to the growing number of pipeline projects that will keep Marcellus production flowing.

With our energy picture quickly shifting away from coal, why then are we expecting a boost in demand in 2013?

2013 Coal Outlook

Here’s the rub: The huge gains made by natural gas companies are also their Achilles’ heel.

I pointed out last week in my 2013 natural gas forecast that record production levels have directly caused prices to collapse since 2008 as well as a severe slowdown in drilling activity…

Factor in producers starting to shut-in their natural gas wells, and we are unquestionably led to higher prices next year.

This in turn means coal will become more cost-competitive with natural gas.

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In the first chart, notice how coal regains some lost ground in 2013. Granted, this is far from a lasting victory for coal, because those gas producers can simply turn the taps back, on should prices rise too much.

In other words, more expensive natural gas (compared to today’s ultra-low prices) is on the way, but we aren’t expecting a price spike to occur.

Coal producers have one last ace in the hole to fuel their long-term success…

It’s true we may be phasing out domestic usage of coal during the next several decades. We certainly aren’t expecting the U.S. (or any of the OECD countries, for that matter) to drive demand in the long term.

But very real growth will is still taking place in other parts of the globe.

This much has been obvious since the 1980s:

china coal demand

China accounted for about 46% of the world’s coal production last year, while Chinese imports increased 20% to roughly 223 million tonnes — a 78% year-over-year increase. By 2016, Chinese imports are projected to reach as high as 450 million tonnes.

Right next door, India’s coal consumption is rapidly climbing — and at a stronger pace than China’s:


As my colleague Jeff Siegel put it recently, “King Coal is heading East.”

Unlike natural gas, coal producers have the ability to export their product overseas.

More of our coal was shipped to Europe than Asia in 2011, and any further supply disruptions in major Asian exporters like Australia and Indonesia will be turned into an advantage by U.S. coal producers.

US: EIA expects coal prices to recover in 2013 on improved demand for power generation

(EnergyAsia, June 13 2012, Wednesday) — US coal prices and demand for power generation are expected to recover next year after declining sharply in 2012 on account of its growing substitution by natural gas, said the US Energy Information Administration (EIA).

In its latest monthly forecast, the agency expects US coal demand for power generation to plunge by 12.9% to 808.4 million short tons in 2012, causing its price to fall next year.

But the projected lower price of US$2.25 per million BTU will entice power companies to switch back to using coal in 2013, boosting the fuel’s demand to 812.7 mmst, said the EIA.

US coal use has been in decline in recent years, falling from 975.1 mmst in 2010 to 928.6 mmst last year.

The EIA said low natural gas prices have contributed to a significant increase in the fuel’s use for power generation.

In response to lower demand, domestic coal production will fall by 9% in 2012, said the agency.

Production for the first four months of 2012 was down by 8% to 28 mmst, and is expected to fall further next year, albeit by a slower rate of four percent.

As a result, there will be less to export over the next two years. The EIA is forecasting US coal exports to slip from last year’s 107 mmst to 106 mmst in 2012 and 97 MMst in 2013.  Still, these levels are significantly higher than the average annual exports of 56 mmst in the decade preceding 2011.

Despite the production decline, the EIA is projecting secondary inventories to rise in 2012, with power companies to hold more than 200 mmst in stock.

EIA forecasts for US coal prices, production and demand
2010       2011         2012      2013
Prices (US$ per million Btu)
Coal for Power Use                               2.27        2.40          2.34        2.25

Supply in million short tons (mmst)
Production                                              1084.4     1094.3     996.7     960.5
Imports                                                    19.4          13.1         12.9        15.7
Exports                                                    81.7          107.3       106.2      97.4

Consumption in mmst
Power Sector                                         975.1        928.6       808.4      812.7
Other Sectors                                        76.3           74.5         79.1         82.9
Total Consumption                              1051.3      1003.1     887.1      895.6

Inventories in mmst
Power Sector                                         174.9         175.1      201.8      200.9
Total Inventories                                   233.6         226.2       247.5     243.6

2013, Harga Batu Bara Kembali Bergairah
Dani Jumadil Akhir – Okezone
Kamis, 7 Februari 2013 17:51 wib

JAKARTA – Kementerian Energi dan Sumber Daya Mineral (KESDM) memperkirakan harga batu bara akan mengalami kenaikan pada 2013. Hal ini karena ada perubahan kebijakan dan iklim dingin di wilayah Eropa sehingga berpengaruh pada harga batu bara.

“Harga batu bara akan sedikit mengalami kenaikan dari di bawah USD85 per ton menjadi USD89 per ton dan diprediksikan akan berada di kisaran USD90 per ton,” ungkap Direktur Pembinaan Pengusahaan Batubara Direktorat Jenderal Minerba Kementerian ESDM Edy Prasodjo, seusai menghadiri diskusi Prospek Industri Batubara dan Hambatan Infrastruktur, di Jakarta, Kamis (7/2/2013)

Edy menambahkan awal tahun ada perubahan musim menjadi musim dingin sehingga di 2012 harga batu bara sempat anjlok. Namun untuk ekspor, tahun ini akan ada peningkatan walaupun nilainya belum dipublikasikan.

“Pembatasan kuota (ekspor) batu bara kita masih akan melakukannya pada tahun depan. Namun penerapannya harus melihat harga batu bara stabil kembali terlebih dahulu,” pungkasnya. (gnm)


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