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  • US Coal Alive and Kicking // Don't Blame Modhi // US Nuclear Generation Down, But Share Holds

US Coal Alive and Kicking // Don't Blame Modhi // US Nuclear Generation Down, But Share Holds

US Coal Alive and Kicking

Rumors of American coal's death have been greatly exaggerated--for now. The EIA's recently published Short Term energy Outlook reports, "U.S. coal production in the forecast increases by 43 million short tons (MMst) (7%) in 2022 to 621 MMst and increases by 12 MMSt (2%) in 2023. We expect production in the Western region to drive the increases."

It looks like coal exports have also increased due to the Ukraine war. "Coal exports in our forecast total 89 MMst in 2022, up 4% from 2021," writes the EIA. "We assume international prices will continue to drive increasing U.S. coal exports as the conflict in Ukraine creates the potential to disrupt supplies from Russia."

Until the energy crisis, coal was seen only as the sick man of American energy--dirty and disposable. Coal's share in the American energy mix has fallen steadily in the last 10 years, from 44% in 2011 to 20% in 2020. Now it's surged back into prominence in the US and abroad due to the rising natural gas prices. In Europe, it's even backed up renewables when gas got too expensive

Still, 45% of America's coal will switch off by the end of the decade. Bloomberg reports, "Electricity producers have announced plans to shutter 99.2 gigawatts of coal plants through 2030." America will also see another 36.8 gigawatts of coal retire or be converted to natural gas in the next few years, leaving 82.4 gigawatts of coal capacity without scheduled closures.

Hold onto your reliability, folks. It might get choppy. 

Don't Blame Modhi

On Monday, we reported that India's been importing cheap Russian oil. It's hard to blame a power-hungry country like India that's still reeling from a brutal run-in from COVID to cut it out. But that's what Washington wants--and Modhi so far hasn't wavered.

This has caused friction between New Delhi and Washington. The worry is that, although India has historically imported a small fraction of its energy from Russia, it will snatch up as much as it can get at a low price. All the indicators point to this likelihood. That would put great ease on the Russian economy. 

“If there is, first of all, fuel available at a discount, why shouldn't I buy it? I need it for my people so we have already started purchasing," Modhi said earlier this month. “We have started buying, we have received quite a number of barrels - I would think three to four days’ supply - and this will continue.”

The Biden administration sees things differently. “The president has made clear that he does not believe it’s in India’s interest to accelerate or increase imports of Russian energy and other commodities,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki recently told the press. Such a statement can be parsed in a number of ways: either the administration doesn't appreciate India's economic position, or it's threatening to withhold its own exports from India. 

According to the International Trade Administration, "Since 2017...the United States has become a significant source of energy for India.  U.S. crude oil exports to India went from zero in 2016 to 93 million barrels in 2019, and U.S. liquified natural gas exports grew more than five-fold from 2016 to 2019." 

Whatever the case, it's worth remembering Pielke's Iron Law: People will do whatever they can to keep the lights on--whether it's burning wood or undermining allies.

US Nuclear Generation Down, But Share Holds

World Nuclear News reports that the "output from US nuclear power plants totaled 778 million MWh in 2021, 1.5% less than the previous year."

It's no wonder it's down--America lost Indian Point. But what's impressive is that the fleet still kicks in around 1/5 of America's electricity generation and, per WNN, boasts "an average nuclear capacity factor 93% in 2021." And it's this capacity factor that softened the loss of Indian Point. 

WNN also reports, "Six nuclear units with a total capacity of 4736 MWe have retired since the end of 2017, and three more, with a combined capacity of 3009 MWe, are scheduled to retire in the coming years. These are: Palisades, in Michigan, which is scheduled to retire later this year; and Diablo Canyon, in California, where one unit is scheduled to retire 2024 and one in 2025."

We can only hope that the energy crisis persuades Michigan and California to reconsider their closure plans. 

Conversation Starters

  • Due to its new nuclear reactor, the 1.6 GW Olkiluoto 3, Finland's spot power prices are 50% lower than the rest of the Nordic zone.

  • A fire sparked at a power plant left Puerto Rico's 1.5 million customers without power for five days. It has just come back on.

  • Border crossing delays turned into a trucker protest at the Texas-Mexico border. The protest was brought on by Governor Abbott's new inspections, which have led to 1-hour lines. The protest has ground traffic in El Paso to a halt.

Word of the Day

zipper manifold


A system of frac valves that directs treatment fluid from the missile to multiple frac trees. The zipper manifold facilitates quick redirection of fracturing pressure from one well to another, enabling pump trucks to run nearly continuously to minimize downtime. (source)

Crom's Blessing

Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress