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Illinois Basin prices rise as transportation issues trump supply

News Source:http://www.jinchemical.com/ ; SendDate:2014-6-10 15:23:59 
Illinois Basin market sentiment was mixed this week, as some participants said they see prices rising on heightened domestic demand, partly to rebuild stockpiles, while others took a persistently bearish view that increased production in the basin will keep prices down.

"There is lot of new production coming online and I think demand will probably meet it, but it will just keep prices relatively low unless there is some disaster with gas supply and another hurricane like Katrina," said one market watcher.

Year-to-date Illinois Basin production through the end of May is down roughly 1% compared with last year, according to US Energy Information Administration estimates released Thursday.

Production on a year-on-year basis rose for four of five of the basin's largest producers by volume in the first quarter, according to the most recent data available from the US Mine Safety and Health Administration.

The basin's largest producer, Alliance Energy, increased production 3% in Q1; the third-largest producer, Foresight Energy, was up 2.4%; the fourth largest, Murray Energy, was up 5.9%, and the fifth largest, Armstrong Energy, was up 4.3%.

Only Peabody Energy, the basin's second-largest producer, saw a year-on-year decline in Q1 output, dipping 4%.

Together, the five companies produce roughly three-fourths of the basin's coal. But with stockpiles down, the producers are finding plenty of domestic customers, said one buyer in the basin.

Bentek Energy, a unit of Platts, estimates US coal stockpiles totaled 126 million st for the week ending Friday, down 32% from the five-year average.

"I think there is lots of supply out there, and it's needed to increase stockpiles, but it's not a supply issue, [it's] a transportation issue," said the buyer.

A backlog of rail deliveries because of the winter's extreme weather is partly behind the low coal stockpiles.

Based on a survey of buyers, brokers and producers, Platts assessed each of its five Illinois Basin coal assessments up slightly due to increased stockpile demand and transportation pressures.

The 11,800 Btu/lb, 5 lbs SO2 rail-delivered coal was assessed at $45.25/st for prompt quarter delivery, up 50 cents. The 11,500 Btu/lb, 2.5 lbs SO2 rail-delivered coal was assessed at $48/st, up $1; the 11,500 Btu/lb, 5 lbs SO2 barge coal was assessed at $4/st, up 50 cents.

The 11,000, 5 lbs SO2 barge coal was assessed at $41.65/st, up 15 cents; and the 10,500 Btu/lb, 6 lbs plus SO2 rail coal was assessed at $37/st, up $1.

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