US coal use predicted to rise slower than earlier thought

International Mining‘s leader in the January issue will examine, in the light of latest Kyoto discussions in Bali, the world need to generate power from coal. Clean coal technologies must be embraced and furthered, particularly coal-to-liquid (CTL) fuels.

Last week the Energy Information Administration (EIA) in the USA, in an early release of its Annual Energy Outlook 2008, predicted that coal’s share of the electricity generation market in America will increase to 55% by 2030. The outlook also revised upwards by 40% its previous projection regarding the amount of coal needed by 2030 to meet demand for domestic CTL fuels.

The 55% figure includes power production, combined heat and power, as well as end use generation. For power production, EIA estimates coal will produce 57.8% of America’s electricity in 2030, compared with the 60.8% figure predicted in the 2007 outlook. The revision is largely a result of EIA’s projected slowdown in economic growth and electricity demand.

In total, EIA’s latest outlook projects annual coal production to reach 1,447 Mt in 2030 compared with 1,534 Mt the agency predicted last year. The projections are predicated on a doubling of electricity generated from renewable sources of energy as a result of new state-level renewable portfolio standards and an assumed 18.5% increase in nuclear generating capacity.

The forecast predicts a rise in coal use for CTL, predicting that 142 Mt will be needed for domestic CTL production by 2030, marking a 40% increase over the agency’s previous projection of 102 Mt.

Furthermore, as 2007 draws to a close, US coal exports are poised to approach a level not
reached in seven years. Exports for the year are projected to total some 52.6 Mt, a level exports have not reached since 2000 when 53 Mt were exported. This year’s projected total marks a 16.8% jump over 2006 exports and is well above the 43 Mt America has exported on average over the previous four years.

The projected increased in exports for 2007 is largely the result of strong demand for metallurgical coal in Belgium, Brazil and Italy, although shipments of steam coal to overseas destinations are also up significantly. The increased demand for US coal is also being driven by factors in traditional exporting countries, such as Australia and Colombia, due to port and infrastructure constraints, as well as significantly increased demand coming from Asia, particularly China and India. In the past several years, US coal exports have been destined primarily for Canada, Brazil, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and the UK.

In addition, the lowered value of the US dollar makes the coal competitively priced with other nation’s coal.