The Coal Industry Prepares to Extend the 2017 Recovery

Plans for capital spending increases on the heels of growing production

As to whether stability has been restored to the coal industry, the 2017 numbers speak for themselves. Last year, total coal production increased by 58.5 million tons to 786.9 million tons from 728.4 million tons in 2016, according to preliminary figures from the Energy Information Administration (EIA). However, the devil is, as they say, in the details. Some coal-producing regions saw healthy increases, while others did not, and exports played a persuasive role.

After two years of steep production declines, the coal business posted a positive number. The big question is: Will it be able to grow from this level or at least maintain it? For those working outside or against the coal industry who do not share the same level of unbridled optimism, the jury is still out. In its most recent short-term outlook, the EIA has forecast reduced U.S. coal production in 2018, falling by 2%. For 2018 and 2019, the agency expects coal production to hover around 760 million tons. Coal operators in general are betting against them.
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