Aussie Coal Exports Surge to New High

Open cut hard rock mining (Kalgoorlie, Western Australia) author Stephen Codrington source Wikimedia

Open cut hard rock mining (Kalgoorlie, Western Australia) author Stephen Codrington source Wikimedia

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

Exports of Australian coal from ports in the state of Queensland have surged to a new record.

According to the Gladstone Observer.

THE latest coal export data has shown Gladstone Port exported 5.8 million tonnes of coal in January – 400,000 tonnes more than in January 2015 and more than 1 million tonnes more than in January 2012.

The Abbot Point, Hay Point and Dalrymple Bay export terminals near Mackay exported a total of 12.6 million tonnes, up from 8.8 million tonnes in 2012.

Statewide about 19 million tonnes of coal were exported – most out of ports in regional Queensland.

Queensland Resources Council chief Michael Roche said although international prices were hurting mining companies there was strong international demand for Queensland’s coal.

“The coal ports of Abbot Point, Dalrymple Bay, Hay Point and Gladstone all had their strongest ever January,” he said.

“Contrary to what a lot of activists are saying, the demand for Queensland coal hasn’t gone away.

Read more:

The international coal market is still suffering oversupply – the Gladstone Observer claims that around a third of Queensland coal mines are operating at a loss. But there must be at least a possibility, that surging demand will eventually translate into price rises and higher profits.

The following is a link to coal export statistics published by the Australian government, showing an ongoing rise in export tonnage across Australia.

92 thoughts on “Aussie Coal Exports Surge to New High

  1. I do wonder just what economic considerations are driving the increased exports–new long term contracts or spot market sales. Obviously, one has some rationale to not leave the coal unmined if some are operating at a loss. Some mines in the US will flood if inactive, but I do not envision that as a problem in Australia.

    • It’s totally a problem here in Australia. We’re essentially the Saudi Arabia of coal, but rather than the state, all the profits go to Rio and BHP.

      Essentially the big players are attempting to use the depressed prices to kill the smaller operations, relying on volume to create a revenue stream, if not profit.

      • Then there are income tax and payroll tax … coal is railed to export terminals on electrified rail powered by Queensland’s own coal-fired power stations.

      • Yeah, but all that money (they are Australia’s largest single tax paying entity, in absolute terms) only equates to ~0.002% of the profits from their Australian operations.

      • @ Phil B

        I’m going to go on record up front that I don’t believe you.
        Specifically, I don’t believe your claim that BHP and Rio Tinto pay 0.002% of the profits from their Australian Operations to the Australian Government in Corporate Income Tax, Royalties and Payroll Tax.

        I’m on record but prepared to be shown I was wrong. In which case I will publicly apologise, profusely.

        Do you have any the evidence to back up your claim? (Other than “A Green told me.” There’s a reason people drive around town with bumper stickers that say “Greens tell lies”.)
        I hope that if it is shown that you’re the one who’s wrong, you will be willing to do the same.
        Please, show your evidence.

    • Some mines have ‘take or pay’ contracts with the railway company or the port, resulting in the unwelcome situation where they lose less money if they produce coal than if the do not. This again promotes oversupply, which continues to depress the price.

  2. Shame on them. This business of providing cheap, reliable electricity worldwide has to stop. Mankind is way too prosperous and long-lived as it is.

    • Bill McKibben saw that photo and was “triggered” into uncontrollable weeping “for the children and other living things.” Where’s the “safe space” for a climate change victim? Antarctica I suppose.

      • Eric,
        Time for a catchup of your news?
        The coal mines stopped operating months ago because of criticism from green groups.
        That is why this picture, weep mckibben, is of the biggest open pit in Australia – for gold.
        At least 3 of my assertions are knowingly wrong.

  3. Oh, so the Aussie carbon tax is really an export tariff? No doubt the WTO will look the other way because it’s part of the carbon effort.

  4. Of Australian coal exports 45% are metallurgical coal I.e for steel making etc, not thermal. Also the big pit in the attached photo is not a coal mine. Please do not fall into the trap of using incorrect photos to highlight a point – as the warmest do all the time!!

    • It is an open pit Gold mine.
      But, the title at the wiki site in the link under it does say “File:Strip coal mining.jpg” .
      Under the photo it correctly says it is a Gold mine.
      Perhaps someone that knows about Wikimedia Commons can correct this.

    • That gold and other minerals pit is actually in Kalgoorlie in Western Australia.

      Most Australia coal is mined on the eastern coasts of NSW and northern Queensland.

  5. Zute ! , and I just sold off all my coal stocks because the Guardian told me it was all going down hill from now on and everyone would be left with worthless stock.

  6. With low oil and gas prices (and likely to remain low), I suspect coal will be increasingly uncompetitive. Note that users cannot always easily switch between fuels and the coal power station build in China will require supply for at least a decade.

    However continuing to dig coal has one unique benefit – it can be stockpiled at low cost compared to oil and gas which require specialist storage facilities.

    • I hold the contrarian view that crude oil prices will be back to between $60-80/bbl in a year to 18 months, back over $100 by 2020, and quite probably over $150 by 2025, maybe even as high as $200/bbl in one IMF scenario. The short term prediction is informed by 1. OPEC budget needs and 2. US shale oil well decline curves and rig counts. The medium and long term views are informed by detailed analysis of the worlds oil fields, production rates, and costs related to finding and bringing on remaining new fields, mainly deepwater and Russian Arctic. Covered in excruciating detail in several energy essays in ebook Blowing Smoke.

      • Rud would you comment on Titan Oil a company that injects microbes into existing wells to help further oil extraction. Said microbes make it easier for oil to slip out of tight formations by reducing surface tension. If it does work at a reported $10/barrel will it be used much in the future…thanks ed

      • Sure. It is one of several so called tertiary enhanced oil recovery (EOR) methods that seek to reduce medium oil viscosity in order to improve the recovery factor. Heavy is defined as API 10-21, and usually requires steam flood as at Chevron’s great Kern River field in California. Google can use these clues to take you to presentations with details. With medium oil API 22-31. Titan is one of several MEOR technologies (microbe enhanced oil recovery). The other common medium EOR is carbon dioxide injection, as in the Permian in Texas or Wayburn in Canada. For light oil API > 31, usually all that is done is secondary water flood plus horizontal laterals, as at Saudi’s largerst field Ghawar, and Russia’s largest Samotlor. The viscosity is low enough (higher API is lower viscosity because it is essentially a weight measurement) that the water from below pushes up and out what may (depends on porosity and permeability). For the best light fields with water flood recovery factor is about 65%. For medium fields with EOR, about 35 percent. For heavy fields, runs about 25%. The average for the 700 largest oil fields in the world (producting about 2/3 of all crude) is about 36% according to USGS, or 35% according to IEA (might have those reversed, no matter).
        Another interesting factoid. All these EOR techniques (MEOR, CO2, Maximum contact horizontal laterals,…) have only increased recovery factors by 25% over the 1970 base, according to BP. 45 years of technology improvement for 1.25x better recovery.
        All part of why peak crude production (excluding NGLs) comes around 2023-2025. The actual peak in conventional oil (API>10, porosity > 6%, permeability >10 darcies) came in 2008 according to the IEA.

      • And to answer your last question, it will be used extensively in the future to squeeze out every last drop, even if prospects presently seem bleak because of the price war.

  7. Eric’s very last link is useful in as much it shows total production, exports and value.

    Sure enough, assuming they are real rather than estimates, overall coal production is rising strongly fuelled by exports but total value has barely changed due to weak prices.

    I am genuinely surprised as I thought the coal industry was in sharp decline.

    Australia has recently opened two very large solar farms. With its sunny climate, low population and lack of heavy industry there appears to be plenty of room for solar growth. Will coal output grow in tandem? We shall just have to wait and see. I have no idea if the new Aussie prime minister is attempting to switch away from fossil fuel to renewables or if they are being pragmatic.


    • Stockpiling? While prices are low virtually everyone has their “strategic petro reserves” filled to the brink. Maybe some smart coal buyers are doing the same. Like others have said it is easy to stockpile. It would make sense because any time the price started to go up they could dip into their reserves and not buy as much keeping demand down and the price lower.

      The other part of the article that caught my eye was this line:
      “But there must be at least a possibility, that surging demand will eventually translate into price rises and higher profits”.

      Well maybe but as China buys more gas from Russia in Yuan the coal producers may have to accept Yuan for coal sold to China. The expectation of “surging demand” for electricity can be met from a lot of sources. Given how many different nuclear technologies China is actively developing their demand may not come back.

      Not to mention their work on LFTR and fusion reactors, the latter of which just sustained fusion for 102 seconds!

      Demand for electricity will come back. Coal? I’m not so sure about that one.

  8. Unfortunately it seems not only solar is dependent on subsidies: “Queensland’s resources industry has called on the state and federal governments for help to save thousands of jobs after a study showed that a third of the state’s coalmines are running at a loss.”

    And: “The coal industry employs only 0.4% of the Australian workforce, but gets hundreds of millions of dollars every year in subsidies. Despite this special treatment, it appears the industry is not financially viable.”

    It would be nice if the energy sector in general (both renewables and fossil) could stand on its own to legs for a change. Exporting record amounts of coal at a loss while being dependent on hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayers money is unseemly.



    • Almost all businesses want 2 things from governments. Subsidies (other people’s money) and a monopoly (legislate away their competition).

    • Benben

      Your link to the guardian then leads to this.

      It appears that only the debit side of the mining balance sheet was looked at. Overall they appear to make a healthy profit for Australia. Whether that will happen in the future with a collapse in prices is another matter.

      I hold no brief for the mining or coal industry butThey are currently a necessary resource in the modern world. However, Australia seems eminently suited to solar and perhaps it’s own energy needs might be met in the future by that source, rather than coal, at an economic price.

      Solar here in the UK is however hopelessly uneconomic and ineffective but we ought to be concentrating on tidal/ wave energy as well as other forms of conventional energy as we are facing a very serious energy gap in the next few years


      • Subsidies should only be used in the very specific case where you fund a novel technology that needs long-term R&D funding before it becomes capable of taking on an entrenched industry. That the coal industry is receiving subsidies at all is bizar, and the fact that they are making a healthy profit makes it more bizar that they are receiving subsidies, and even demanding more government money for their mines that are not profitable. That is no way to run a business.

      • Benben

        The word subsidy is often stretched by those with a bias from any end of the political spectrum.

        We had a similar report a few weeks ago claiming huge subsidies on activities the author didn’t like. Again they only looked at one side of the balance sheet.

        Personally, I would like to see a well funded resource set up by like minded governments ( like CERN) to investigate new forms of energy, improving existing technologies and coming up with a viable battery technology currently The Achilles heel of renewables


      • Tonyb, a CERN like mechanism makes sense for gen 4 nuclear. Good idea.
        There was in the 1990’s an EU equivalent for solid oxide fuel cells, which spent several billion and failed. More recently, Bloom Energy in Silicon Valley invested about 1.5 billion of VC money in SOFC and has essentially also failed. Some problems are just very tough.
        Given the literally tens of $billions that governments, large corporations, and VC funded startups have thrown and continue to throw at electricity storage at all scales (portable electronics, electric/hybrid vehicles, grid) I very much doubt a CERN like mechanism would bear fruit in any way to solve renewable storage. Last year I posted a guest essay overview of grid storage at CE. There is a slightly longer version in my ebook. There will, IMO, never be a workable renewables grid storage solution. Not enough energy density, not enough lifetime, far too high in cost– no matter whether some battery, or some electricity to fuel to generation scheme.

        Nor is grid storage necessary. There is a short term CO2 reducing electricity solution: CCGT. Cuts CO2/MWh by about 2/3 compared to steam coal. uK, get fracking. There is a zero emission long term solution: nuclear, preferably Gen 4. NOT Hinckley C!

      • Total population of Australia is 24 million.
        In country almost as big as the USA.
        All of Europe and the UK will fit inside our borders with ease.
        Building solar farms is easy,particularly with taxpayers money.
        Getting the power to where it is needed is not.

        I was recently at a new coal power station. They had a solar boost facility added to keep the greenies happy.
        The solar side of things has not produced any useful energy in the 2 years it has been functional.

    • Benben,

      Most of those news articles floating around recently about “subsidies” paid to large mining companies are actually calling the various things that can be claimed on tax as a subsidy. Eg the company spends $20m on some piece of capital plant which can obviously be claimed as a $20m tax deduction. The people writing these article would call that a $20m subsidy by the government. Disgustingly wrong in what they are trying to do.



  9. I do not like the ads that have sound.
    I am not opening WUWT anymore.
    Thanks for the last few years of interesting info.

  10. Is that a single seam 25m thick? Geez, no,wonder the UK coal industry could not compete. The subsidy to equalise that difference would have to be more than we subsidise wind.


    • Rf, Wyoming’s Powder River basin low ash low sulfur subbituminous steam coal beds are 20-35 meters thick, and average less than 30 meters of overburden so are strip mined. No underground mine can compete with that. My understanding is Australian coal is even betermthan Powder River.
      US greenies are blocking export terminals on the east and west coasts, forcing us to keep it for ourselves and giving Australia an export leg up. Despite that, CCGT is still cheaper thanks to oversupply of fracked shale gas. And that is still true at any gas price up to between $6-8/mbtu because CCGT is 61% thermal efficient, while our only USC coal (Turk in Arkansas burning Powder River coal brought in by rail) is only 41%.

    • No, that picture is of Kalgoorlie’s open cast goldmine.

      is coal

      But yes, coal can come in very very big seams

      The development of seriously big machinery now makes it easier to rip off the overburden than to drive shafts underground. For all sorts of mining

  11. Remarkable ain’t it?
    Coal is evil poison if used in country to benefit the citizens.
    yet pure,clean,black gold when burned by China and India.
    Just as Athabasca Oilsand crude is planet fouling crud, yet California heavy crude is A OK.
    Venezaulan Crude is welcome on the eastern seaboard, but the canadian crude is too evil to permit pipelines.

    The manipulation of our economies by this hypocrisy and manufactured mass hysteria, can only be defined as economic warfare.
    Therefor our useful idiots are committing treason,especially as many of them are openly funded from foreign sources.

    • According to the CO2 satellite data, Australia is a net sink, so we have a long way to go to even get to 0% .
      A fact that I have used to make a few greenies look silly in front of whatever they use for friends.

  12. Came across this (unfortunately no link in English)
    ” Russian and German physicists and geologists have discovered a previously unknown layer of the earth’s crust where there is a huge amount of liquid oxygen, according to the research paper “nature communication”.
    Preliminary calculations show that there is about 10 times more oxygen in the layers of the Earth’s crust than in the atmosphere.
    Elena Bull, scientist at the University of Bayreuth in Germany, said that this discovery is very surprising, given the fact that no one yet knows what is going on with that “huge rivers of oxygen in the Earth’s interior.”
    Scientist Maksim Bykov, one of the authors of this study said that the presence of oxygen in the Earth’s crust shows that in the interior of our planet’s chemical processes are taking place about which no one yet knows anything that could drastically affect the climate and the current state of the atmosphere.”

    Perhaps one day they may find “huge rivers of liquid carbon dioxide in the Earth’s interior.”

  13. I just keep imagining a ridiculous conversation in China where two people out in the haze of pollution that encapsulates many Chinese cities are trying to talk through their gas masks about how the country needs to cut back coal burning because if they keep it up for another 50 years it might be 2 degrees warmer, and that would be unhealthy!! A cartoon idea for somebody.

    • Does anybody know: How much more expensive are coal power plants that don’t pollute the air of cities?
      (We know CO2 is no pollutant, so this question is not about CO2)

      • Scrubbers are not expensive, and can be retrofitted to existing plants. There is a power loss though.
        The average power loss from using scrubbers on your coal plant varies a bit , but I believe it is about a 2% loss.

      • WR, in the US the Clean Air Act requires estimates to justify regulation. The general estimate for switching to lower sulfur coals (higher transport costs), flue gas SO2 scrubbers, bag houses and electrostatic precipitators for fly ash, and the old mercury levels using activated charcoal (the EPAs new levels were voided by the Supreme Court recently) is about 30% on average on a per kwh basis. Not all capital and operations; scrubbers and precipitators use electricity so derate generating capacity. Frankly, it was a price well worth paying, that China could easily afford if it wanted to. From images, I am pretty sure a lot of the new USC plants in China do employ these technologies. Problem is, coal is also used for industrial process heat and for residential heating in China, where these proven technologies are impractical on smaller scales.

      • Thank you Ristvan, a clear answer to my question.

        Given the fact that
        1. Reality (satellites, weather balloons) proves that models are overheated – and not the Earth
        2. Clean Coal is cheaper than ‘alternatives’ and not disturbing the grid
        3. CO2 is ‘greening the Earth’ (inclusive higher crop results resulting in lower food prices),
        it could be wise for the World Bank to help developing countries to build Clean (coal) solutions.

        Both poverty and hunger will diminish.

  14. Time to buy KOL etf, up 4% today, at $6.04 per share! But need to know that the market has bottomed out first.

    Ha ha

  15. Good news. Australia is a decent country. The developing countries buying this coal will benefit from it even more.

    • The manipulation of stocks in the US was (still is) astounding. The way some companies’s stocks were downgraded to in some cases “junk” and then were snapped up by the Soros’s of this world and are now “somehow” , “recovering” made those criminals billions! (Remember what Soros did to the British). This guy is still fighting WWII.

  16. things you know, that turn out not to be so.
    That’s why I like this site, the educational value is immense.

    It’s also why I despair of the catastrophists. They never seem to learn new stuff
    Nobody knows everything, people who say they do are liars

  17. Much of our Aussie coal is about the best coking coal in the world, as is the quality of our huge deposits of iron ore, of which we also export on a large scale.

    Many here on this site are likely driving around in a piece of OZ.

  18. Any single tax deduction is called a subsidy by the watermelons.

    Even if your tax rate is higher than say Microsoft, Google, etc.


    • Coal and mining bring huge amounts of money into Australia..

      Renewables take it back out. A worthless money sink

  19. Let me correct a widespread misunderstanding.
    Yes, BHP and Rio mine and sell most of Australia’s coal for export.
    Yes, this is a huge global operation involving heaps of money.
    No, there are no BHP or Rio employees who are putting any significant money into their own pockets.
    Yes, people in other industries especially IT, do pocket huge amounts of money derived from high prices to the public.
    Yes, the vast majority of coal mining proceeds go back into the community, not into the pockets of a few BHP or Rio individuals.

    So let’s stop this child level talk about coal miners ripping off the poor please.

  20. How can this be when the nations of the world are supposedly working together to combat climate change? Shouldn’t coal sales be dropping?

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