Coal Explained – Coal Imports and Exports

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U.S. Coal Imports

Although the United States produces a large amount of coal, some power plants along the Gulf Coast or the Atlantic Ocean sometimes find it less costly to import coal by sea than to have it sent by rail or barge from the coal-producing regions of the United States.

Of the 999.1 million short tons of coal consumed in the United States in 2011, about 1% was imported, mostly from South America. In 2011, the amount of coal imported into the United States was about 12% of the amount exported to other countries

U.S. Coal Exports

The United States is a net exporter of coal, meaning that it exports more coal to other countries than it imports. Between 2000 and 2010, about 5% of the coal produced in the United States, on average, was exported to other countries. In 2011, U.S. coal exports climbed to 10% (the highest level in two decades), partly because flooding disrupted coal mining in Australia, which is normally the world’s largest coal exporter. Coal exports come in two forms: metallurgical coal, which can be used for steel production, and steam coal, which can be used for electricity generation. Metallurgical coal dominated U.S. coal exports in 2011 with Europe the largest importer, followed by Asia.

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