Consol Energy saw a record year at its coal export terminal in Baltimore in 2017, serving ships bound for Asia and Europe. The company mined some of the coal itself from its three sites in southwestern Pennsylvania, mostly in the form of traditional thermal — or steam — coal, used for electricity generation.
But much of the coal came from other U.S. companies mining lesser-known metallurgical — or coking — coal, the high-temperature type used in steelmaking. It’s this type of coal, marked for export, that sparked a mini-revival for the downtrodden industry last year.
“We expect globally coal will continue to be cost-effective and prevalent,” said Jim McCaffrey, Consol’s senior vice president of marketing, in an interview with the Washington Examiner. “We will see some lumpy years. No doubt about that. But our cost picture puts us in a great position to ride out bad times and enjoy the good times.”
Driven by exports, U.S. coal production increased by 6 percent last year. Exports of metallurgical coal rose 39 percent as of November from the same time in 2016, according to the Energy Information Administration. Exports of steam coal, meanwhile, rose 28 percent.
Coal mining jobs saw a 1 percent increase last year to more than 50,000, a response to increased demand from Asia, mostly China, for metallurgical coal, experts say.
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