Has China reached peak coal?

A new set of forecasts from the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) shows global coal consumption is on the way down.

The briefing paper ‘Past Peak Coal in China’ claims that peak thermal coal consumption by the world’s leading consumer peaked in 2013, and had suffered a 40 per cent decline since then.

With China responsible for half of the world’s coal consumption, global coal consumption had also peaked in 2013, an outlook running counter to forecasts by the International Energy Agency (IEA) that coal consumption would continue to grow.

A breakdown of coal consumption by nation showed downward trends for the 12 largest coal consumers, including an 11 per cent decline (100Mst) in the US which was predicted by Peabody Energy for 2015.

India was the only country to post an increase, with a 15 per cent year on year increase in coal dispatches for April to September 2015, as reported by Singareni Collieries.

The recently released World Energy Outlook predicted growth for coal-fired electricity of 23 per cent between 2013 and 2040.

“In the IEA central scenario, Australia’s export coal is forecast to grow by 36.7 per cent to 2040, boosting the Australian share of global trade from 29 per cent in 2013 to 33 per cent in 2040,” Minerals Council of Australia chief Brendan Pearson said last week.

“This is consistent with forecasts from the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, Australia will regain its ranking as the world’s largest exporter of coal.”

In a conversation with Australian Mining, World Coal Association chief Benjamin Sporton said it was unlikely that India would be able to end thermal coal imports by 2017, a goal set down by Indian energy minister Piyush Goyal.

The most recent IEEFA report said that the organisation did not believe Goyal would be able to effect such a limitation by 2017, instead predicting cessation of imports in the next five to seven years.

The September monthly coal price for thermal exports from Newcastle was down to below $US60 per tonne.


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