During a time of declining domestic demand, exports brought much-needed business and will likely continue to do so
by john t. hanou
From 2000 to 2014, Illinois Basin (ILB) production, which includes Illinois, Indiana and western Kentucky, was on the upswing. It expanded by more than 50 million tons due to strong demand from the scrubbed power plants and export markets. In 2014, ILB production nearly reached 137 million tons. The momentum carried into the first quarter of 2015 as ILB mines produced 35.4 million tons (142.2 million tons on an annualized basis), but it would not last. Low natural gas prices, subsidized renewables (wind), lower exports and a mild winter burn caused U.S. coal demand to drop dramatically. Stockpiles bulged at both the mines and the power plants.