According to the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development, the state’s total coal exports in 2012 were valued at about $73.5 million. While that figure pales in comparison to leading coal exporting states such as West Virginia, it nevertheless nearly doubled the $41.3 million in export sales recorded by the commonwealth in 2011.

Canada accounted for more than $38 million of Kentucky’s coal export revenue that year, followed in order by China, the United Kingdom, Spain, India and Germany.

Although he declined to predict export sales for 2013, Kentucky Coal Association President Bill Bissett is hopeful they will continue to increase. The development of new ocean-going ports in both the western and eastern United States should keep the trend going, he said.

In Illinois, coal exports have shown steady growth over the past three years, rising from 2.5 million tons in 2010 to 7 million tons in 2011 and 13 million tons in 2012. While the latter number is impressive, Bill Hoback, OCD deputy director, believes exports represent a still largely untapped market for high-sulfur Illinois steam coal.

A new export report compiled by Emily Medine, a principal in Energy Ventures Analysis, an internationally recognized consulting firm with headquarters in Arlington, Va., paints an optimistic picture for the future of Illinois coal exports. As is the case with several other coal-producing states, China and India are among the developing markets for Illinois coal. But Hoback, drawing on the study’s findings, is convinced that Europe still offers a major opportunity.

That is why Hoback said his office, part of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, is looking to send a trade delegation to Europe in the fall.  In particular, he thinks Germany may be a prospective purchaser of Illinois coal. Several new coal-burning power plants are being built in Germany, including by E.ON, that country’s largest power producer, and RWE, the biggest user of coal in Europe.