Coal exports rose 58% in the first quarter, from the same period in 2016, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Steam coal exports increased 6 million short tons and metallurgical coal exports increased 2 million short tons.
“Most of these exports were shipped from Atlantic Coast and Gulf of Mexico ports,” according to the EIA. Coal exports are expected to decline in the coming months, but the exports should still rise 19% to 72 million short tons in 2017, from 2016.
Coal exports are running below export capacity, and no major projects to expand capacity are under construction. In 2016, export capacity was 257 million short tons, while total coal exports were 61 million short tons. Export facilities in the Norfolk, Va., area have more capacity (84 million short tons annually) than the total amount of coal exports from all U.S. ports. Other key export facilities are in Baltimore, New Orleans, Mobile, Ala., and several large cities in Texas.
“While most U.S. coal is exported from Atlantic Coast and Gulf of Mexico ports, smaller amounts of coal exports also originate from ports on the Great Lakes and in California,” according to the EIA. “However, planned coal export projects elsewhere in the United States have stalled. A new export facility has been proposed for Oakland, Calif., but its construction is being challenged by the local government.”