This year’s U.S. coal shipments went up about 24% from 2011 export numbers – and that’s only as of October. Exports still make up a relatively small percentage of total production, but with domestic use going down and world-wide demand going up, coal producers in places like Wyoming are looking to foreign markets to keep sales steady. For now, though, ports capable of handling truly large coal shipments are just in the planning stages. And Center for Energy Economics and Public Policy director, Tim Considine, says foreign sales won’t solve all of the industry’s problems.
“The port capacity is a binding constraint. I hear that there’s a wide-spread expectation that coal exports will provide some relief for declining shipments here in the US, but not complete relief, it’s not a complete offset. Overall coal production may be lower due to lower domestic use.”
He says Wyoming coal is particularly suitable for export because of its low sulfur content and cheap production price, which helps offset expensive transportation costs.