COLUMN-Coal’s bleak future is stagnant demand, volatile trading – by Clyde Russell (Reuters U.S. – December 18, 2017)

LAUNCESTON, Australia, Dec 18 (Reuters) – Moribund global demand growth and volatile pricing are what coal producers face in the next five years, with not even some bright spots in Asia able to outweigh a bleak outlook for Europe and the United States, and lower consumption in top user China.

That’s the central message of the International Energy Agency’s Coal 2017 report, which outlines a future in which coal remains a significant source of global energy, but one that is decreasing in importance.

Global coal demand will grow by only a compound 0.5 percent a year over the 2018-22 period to 5,534 million tonnes of coal equivalent (mtce), up just 177 mtce from 2016’s consumption, the IEA said.

Top consumer China is expected to drop 0.1 percent a year to 2,787 mtce by 2022, while demand in the United States will fall 0.9 percent per annum over the five-year forecast period, and that in developed countries in Europe by 1.6 percent per annum.

India remains the best hope for coal producers, with thermal coal demand expected to climb 3.3 percent a year to 605 mtce by 2022. Positive contributions to growth are also expected from newer consumers such as Pakistan and countries in Southeast Asia.

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