Washington, 25 October (Argus) — Power plants east of the Mississippi river and within Consol Energy's market could burn an additional 42mn-45mn short tons (38mn-41mn metric tonnes) of coal next year because of higher natural gas prices and improving economic conditions.
With gas prices at $3.75/mmBtu and higher, “coal-fired units become baseload again. They run harder at night than they have in the past,” chief executive J. Brett Harvey said today during a third-quarter earnings call. “We think all the CTs [combustion turbines] [will] come off and get replaced with coal burn and we are very excited.”
Consol expects the domestic thermal coal market to be “pretty strong and stable” next year, although it will be looking for signs of inventory builds at power plants through the shoulder season.
The producer also anticipates strong European thermal demand amid high natural gas prices there and concerns about supply availability from Algeria and Russia.
Because of those factors, Consol raised its thermal coal sales guidance for 2013 to 49.5mn st from the 47.2mn st estimate it gave in July.
Of that 49.5mn st, 35.9mn st is contracted at an average sales price of $60.63/st.
The producer also estimates 2014 thermal sales will total 51.4mn st, which is 200,000st higher than its July estimate. It already has contracted 14.9mn st for 2014 at an average sales price of $62.27/st.
Total sales volume for next year is estimated at 56.7mn st, which is down from Consol's July estimate of 57.6mn st because of lower sales expectations for high-volatile and low-volatile coking coal.
Although Consol was upbeat for next year's market, its sales expectations for this year have been muted by planned and unplanned mine idlings in the third quarter.
The Pittsburgh-based miner had idled operations at the Buchanan and Amonate coking coal complexes in early September because of sluggish market demand.
“When temporary market imbalances occur as they did this quarter with our overseas customers, we choose to idle our mine rather than force tons into the market,” Harvey said.
Consol plans to restart the Buchanan mine during the week of 5 November but will keep the Amonate mine idled for the rest of 2012. The Buchanan mine will have only a five-day work week.
Consol also encountered an unplanned idling of four longwalls for three weeks in July and August, when two conveyor belts collapsed at the preparation plant serving the Enlow Fork and Bailey mines. The collapse idled four longwalls, and after Consol rebuilt one conveyor belt, the capacity utilization rate was only 60pc through the end of the third quarter.
Operations returned to normal at the start of the fourth quarter, but Consol estimates that its third-quarter profit would have been $53mn higher had the collapse not happened.
Both the planned and unplanned idlings contributed to a third-quarter financial loss of $11mn, compared with profit of $167mn for the same period a year ago.
The idlings will also have a residual effect on fourth-quarter financial results, Consol said.
The producer expects to sell 55.9mn st of thermal and metallurgical coal in 2012, down from a July estimate of 59.4mn st.
Mining costs for the third quarter were $55.84/st, up $1.46/st from a year ago because of the idling.
Send comments to email@example.com
If you would like to review other ArgusMedia.com content options, request more information about Argus' energy news, data and analysis services.
Copyright © 2012 Argus Media Ltd - www.ArgusMedia.com - All rights reserved.