Crude Oil ( ) Brent Crude ( ) Natural Gas ( ) S&P 500 ( ) PHLX Oil ( )

Decreasing demand for coal in electricity generation pushes production down to levels not seen since the early 1980s

Coal production in the first three months of 2016 was 173 million short tons, the lowest quarterly level in the United States since a major coal strike in the second quarter of 1981. Among the regions tracked by the EIA, the Powder River Basin (PBR) in Montana and Wyoming saw the largest decline both in terms of absolute tonnage and as a percentage of the previous quarter.

EIA Quartly Coal Production

Demand for coal has dropped off steeply as natural gas becomes the primary fuel source for electrical generation. Electricity generation accounts for more than 90% of domestic coal use, but environmental regulations have caused the fuel source to fall out of favor. Compounding the problem for coal producers, electricity demand is growing more slowly, while historically-low natural gas prices are making it easier for electricity generators to switch to the cleaner burning fuel, reports the EIA.

A 17% decrease in coal production from the previous quarter marked the largest quarter-over-quarter decline since the fourth quarter of 1984. Mild winters both this year and last were likely responsible for the steep decline in production in the beginning of this year. Electric power plants purchased more coal than they needed throughout the fourth quarter of 2015, resulting a 34 MMst build in coal stockpiles, the highest Q4 net increase on record.

Electric power generators were encouraged to burn coal from their stockpiles rather than purchase more from coal producers in the first quarter of the year. Data from the American Association of Railroads showed coal carloads were down 20% quarter-over-quarter as power generators ordered less coal.

The drop in demand for coal was not concentrated in any particular region, either, the EIA reports. Texas, Michigan, Illinois and Oklahoma accounted for an average quarterly demand of 37 MMst of Powder River Basin coal in 2015, or about 40% of total PBR production. Demand for PBR coal from those four states fell 49% to 19 MMst in the first quarter of the year. First-quarter PBR coal production of 69 MMst was the lowest since 1995.

EIA US Coal Production Q1 16

Important disclosures: The information provided herein is believed to be reliable; however, EnerCom, Inc. makes no representation or warranty as to its completeness or accuracy. EnerCom’s conclusions are based upon information gathered from sources deemed to be reliable. This note is not intended as an offer or solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security or financial instrument of any company mentioned in this note. This note was prepared for general circulation and does not provide investment recommendations specific to individual investors. All readers of the note must make their own investment decisions based upon their specific investment objectives and financial situation utilizing their own financial advisors as they deem necessary. Investors should consider a company’s entire financial and operational structure in making any investment decisions. Past performance of any company discussed in this note should not be taken as an indication or guarantee of future results. EnerCom is a multi-disciplined management consulting services firm that regularly intends to seek business, or currently may be undertaking business, with companies covered on Oil & Gas 360®, and thereby seeks to receive compensation from these companies for its services. In addition, EnerCom, or its principals or employees, may have an economic interest in any of these companies. As a result, readers of EnerCom’s Oil & Gas 360® should be aware that the firm may have a conflict of interest that could affect the objectivity of this note. EnerCom, or its principals or employees, may have an economic interest in any of the companies covered in this report or on Oil & Gas 360®. As a result, readers of EnerCom’s reports or Oil & Gas 360® should be aware that the firm may have a conflict of interest that could affect the objectivity of this report.