By Matt Combs
October 8, 2018 - Although down substantially over the long-term, short-term coal production gains in southern West Virginia are one of the few bright spots in the nation's coal picture.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration's recently released Quarterly Coal Report for the second quarter of this year, national second quarter coal production came in at 180.7 million short tons, down from 187 million short tons in the second quarter 2017 and further down from 2014, which saw 245.8 million short tons pulled from the ground between April and June.
Like production, national coal consumption is down when comparing this year's second quarter to last year's and further back to 2013.
This year, between April and June, 144.3 million short tons of coal was used in the U.S. for electric power.
Last year, the second quarter saw 154.2 million short tons used for electricity and in 2013's second quarter, the nation used nearly 200 million short tons for electricity.
For southern West Virginia, second quarter coal production increased over a million short tons from the first quarter to 13.3 million short tons, with last year's second quarter haul being 11.9 million short tons.
While the demand for coal is down at home, the demand for American coal is up internationally.
Between April and June, America exported nearly 31 million shorts tons of coal, up from 21.7 million short tons for the same time period last year.
For the second quarter, exports to Europe increased some 3.5 million short tons, exports to Asia increased nearly three million short tons and exports to Africa increased by 1.3 million short tons, compared to last year's second quarter.
That growth was most notable in India, the Netherlands and Egypt.
Last year, between April and June, India imported 2.3 million short tons of American coal. For this year's second quarter, that figure increased to 4.8 million short tons imported.
Exports to the Netherlands increased by 1.2 million short tons and exports to Egypt increased by 1.1 million short tons when comparing the same two time periods.
According to the data from the EIA, more than half of all the coal exported from the U.S. passes through the two nearest U.S. Customs Districts to southern West Virginia.
During this year's second quarter, 11.8 million short tons of coal was shipped through the Norfolk Customs District and 5.8 million was shipped through the Baltimore Customs District.
Those figures represent a 20 percent increase in coal shipments from the Baltimore Customs District and a 51 percent increase in coal shipments from the Norfolk Customs District when compared to the second quarter of last year.
Nationally, coal exports were up 41 percent in the second quarter this year compared to the second quarter last year, from 21.7 million short tons of coal moved overseas between April and June last year, to 30.8 million short tons exported during the second-quarter this year.