BILLING, Mont. (AP) — Coal production has increased in Montana and Wyoming due to demand in the Asia Pacific region.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration said coal production increased 2% in Montana and 7% in Wyoming this year compared to the first nine months of 2020.
Steve Read of Signal Peak Energy said exports are the primary driver of Montana coal production. He said coal trains from Signal Peak go to British Columbia for shipping, with the coal most likely going to Japan.
“We have spent years developing the Japanese market, and that is our most reliable market. It is the highest valued market for our product,” Read told the Billings Gazette in a story on Saturday.
Exports of U.S. steam coal, the kind used in power plants and the kind of coal produced in the two states, were up about 47% in the first half of the year compared to the first six months of 2020.
Experts said part of the reason for the increase is that energy demand fell in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, but is now picking up. Another reason is an increase globally in natural gas prices.