PRB Coal Deliveries to Upper Midwest Hit Again as Rail Issues Persist

By Charlotte Cox and Darren Epps, SNL Energy

For the second consecutive quarter, Powder River Basin (PRB) coal to the upper Midwest tumbled due to unreliable rail service, reviving questions about competition in the rail industry.

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Pace of Mine Idlings Slows

The number of coal mines idled in the first half of 2014 slowed compared to the second half of 2013, due in part to cold winter weather in early 2014, providing support for a rise in prompt month prices for Powder River Basin and Central Appalachia coal. Although the total number of mines idled in the first half of 2014 was only 64 - compared to 112 in the second half of 2013 - Appalachian mines again shouldered most of the burden, according to a new report from SNL.

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Weak Power Demand Extends Coal Price Fade Into Second Month

By Jesse Gilbert and Steve Piper, SNL Energy

Coal markets traded mostly flat to lower in June as weather remained mild and demand was slack. While utility inventories are low by historical standards, generators are awaiting stronger demand signals before building stockpiles up further. The NYMEX CAPP prompt-month benchmark nudged up $0.12/ton while NYMEX PRB lost $1.10/ton, or 8%. Northern Appalachian markers lost $0.25/ton to $0.35/ton, while remaining physical markers traded flat for the month.

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U.S. Coal Sustains Employment Free Fall

By Taylor Kuykendall and Neil Powell

A free fall in U.S. coal mining employment that began after a near-term peak in the final quarter of 2011 has extended into 2014, with first-quarter employment dropping by more than 5,700 jobs, or a decline of about 7%, compared to the same quarter a year ago.

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Cold January Boosts Capacity of Retiring Coal Plants Above 50%

Cold January Boosts Capacity of Retiring Coal Plants Above 50%Even with their retirements looming, a cold January — particularly across the coal-heavy Midwest, mid-Atlantic and Southeast regions — prompted an increased reliance on units slated to retire by the end of 2015, according to an analysis by SNL Energy. A full 81% of coal-fired capacity slated to be retired by the end of 2015 produced positive net generation in January, according to the analysis, lining up closely with American Electric Power Co. Inc. CEO Nicholas Akin’s statement in January that 89% of the AEP coal fleet scheduled for retirement by mid-2015 was required to run during the winter.

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