China Coal Imports Rise 90% in April, Coal Association Says

Coal imports by China almost doubled in April from a year earlier, according to the China Coal Transport and Distribution Association.

The nation’s purchases of the power-station and steelmaking fuel including lignite, or brown coal, from overseas rose 90 percent to 25.1 million metric tons, the association said in a statement on its website today, citing customs data.

Imports will accelerate in coming months as demand for power generation increases and international prices remain lower than domestic costs, according to Jeffrey Landsberg, president of Commodore Research & Consultancy in New York. China is the world’s biggest coal user.

“We remain very bullish regarding upcoming prospects for Chinese coal imports because regional thermal-coal export prices remain very low,” Landsberg said in an e-mail received today. “In the summer months ahead, we expect electricity production will continue to increase rapidly and will set several new records.”

China’s power output rose 0.7 percent in April from a year ago to 371.8 billion kilowatt hours, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. That was the smallest growth in a non-Lunar New Year holiday month in almost three years. Electricity generation was a record 426 billion kilowatt-hours in August. About 80 percent of the nation’s power plants are coal-fired.

Coal Prices

Benchmark thermal coal prices at China’s Qinhuangdao port fell to a range of 775 yuan ($123) to 785 yuan a ton as of May 13 compared with a week earlier, according to data from China Coal Transport.

Power-station coal at Australia’s Newcastle port slipped to $98.35 a ton, the lowest price in 19 months, as of May 11, according to IHS McCloskey data.

Indonesian coal with a heating value of 5,500 kilocalories a kilogram on a net as-received basis for shipments to South China for June declined 50 cents to $96.35 a ton yesterday, Ginga Petroleum Singapore Pte Ltd, an energy broker, said in an e-mailed report today.

Coal consumption is declining and inventories are rising as imports increase, putting downward pressure on prices, according to the coal association in today’s statement.

Daily coal use by China’s power plants fell for a second month, sliding 11 percent to 3.54 million tons in April from March, it said. Coal stockpiles at utilities rose to 83.5 million tons, or 23.6 days of use, on April 30, up from 19.3 days at the end of March.

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