BY T.L. HEADLEY, MBA, MA, MAterry
CHARLESTON – According to the latest report from the Energy Information Agency (EIA) and the National Mining Association, coal production in the United States is down by slightly more than 1.5 million tons for the week ending March 7th compared to the same time last year. Production for the week stood at 17.48 million tons compared to 18.99 million tons for the same week in 2014. Cumulative production for the year- to-date is also down as of March 7th to 174.17 million tons from 177.35 million tons last year.
There was a significant decrease in the number of rail car loadings for the week, down 6.6% for the week over the same period last year. Rail car loadings are also down 1.0% year-to-date.
Numbers for export and import tonnage were not updated again this week.
Electric output was up for the week – by 0.8% for the week ending March 7th – and is down slightly year-to-date (-0.1%). Steel output fell sharply for the week, down 11.9% to 1.65 million tons – and is down year-to-date to 16.66 million tons produced compared to 17.24 million tons last year. A decline in steel production is considered a leading indicator of the broader economy and the continued declines we are seeing in steel production usually translate into declines in durable goods orders.
Looking at regional coal production, Appalachian production was up slightly for the week – to 4.78 million tons from 4.68 million tons last week. Interior Basin production was also up for the week – coming in at 3.27 million tons from 3.20 million tons last week. Western production also increased this week, to 9.42 million tons from 9.21 million tons last week.
All three regions continued to show increased production for the previous 52 weeks ending March 7th. For the 52-week period, Appalachia production was up slightly by 0.1% to 268.50 million tons from 268.11 million tons in 2014. Interior Basin production was also up — by 2.0%, to 186.11 million tons from 182.54 million tons for the same period ending in 2014. Meanwhile, Western production was up 1.4%, to 536.41 million tons from 528.79 million tons in 2014.
According to the West Virginia Office of Miners’ Health, Safety and Training, coal production in the state for 2015 (reported through March 5, 2015) stands at 10.27 million tons year-to-date, with 8.29 million tons produced underground and 1.98 produced through surface operations. A total of 117 mines in the state now report production in January, although it is important to note that not all reports are in and the number of producing mines may be substantially higher than that number.
Coal prices on the spot market held steady this week. Central Appalachian coal remains at $53.06 per ton. Northern Appalachian coal remains at $61.15 per ton. Illinois Basin coal prices held at $40.32 per ton, while Powder River Basin and Uinta Basin coal prices also held steady – at $11.55 and $38.13 per ton respectively.
Natural gas prices ticked up on the Henry Hub to approximately $3.20 per million Btu. Natural gas producers continued to report significant declines in their stored reserves – off 228 billion cubic feet compared to the previous week, with rig counts holding at approximately 400.
Utilities did not issue updates to their stockpile reports once again this week.

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