The US Department of Energy just released new figures in its quarterly coal export report. Here’s what happened up through the first quarter of 2014:
Nationally, coal exports were down slightly in the first quarter of 2014.
The US exported almost 27.7 million tons of coal in the first three months of the year, which is a lot by historical standards. Yet even so it represented a nearly 13 percent decline from the first quarter of 2013.
The Western Customs Region, center stage in the ferocious debate over expansion capacity, remains a minor player in the national coal exports scene, but coal shipments increased there a bit. The West Coast exported a bit less than 2.3 million tons, 3.3 percent more than the previous quarter.
The Seattle District plays the biggest role in western coal exports, where the data refer solely to coal traveling north from Washington into British Columbia for onward shipment to Asia. In this region, coal exports registered a third consecutive quarter of decline to just over 1 million tons.
In its first quarter investor report, Cloud Peak Energy claimed responsibility for 1.0 million tons of coal exported to Asia by way of BC’s Westshore Terminal, implying that Cloud Peak coal accounts for all of the coal moving through Seattle en route to Canada for export.
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The big coal export story in the West was in California where shipments out of the Los Angeles District (from LAXT at Long Beach) and San Francisco District (probably at the Port of Stockton and the Levin-Richmond Terminal) rose by 11.8 percent and 1.9 percent, respectively. By contrast, coal exports from the Anchorage District (referring to the Seward Coal Loading Facility) seem to have bottomed out at a mere 75,000 tons.
Please remember that there are serious questions about the accuracy of the official government coal export numbers. For more about these inconsistencies, please read this post.
All figures in this post are given in short tons unless otherwise noted. All of my reporting on quarterly coal export volumes can be found in the series “Coal Export Trend Reports.” All data come from the US EIA’s latest quarterly coal report, covering the entire Western Customs Region. In addition to the districts shown on the chart here, the Western Region includes the Portland, Honolulu, Nogales, and San Diego Districts. These districts have been reporting virtually no coal exports. Please note that the second chart shows Customs Districts, not individual ports; the Port of Seattle does not move coal.