According to Reuters, Thrasher told an industry crowd in Beijing Tuesday that total coal exports from the US bound for Asia could reach as much as 20.1 million tonnes this year. That would follow a 250% growth between 2009 and 2010.
He noted that exports to the region commenced at a low base in 2009, so growth would come at a slower pace this year versus last.
Additionally, a price arbitrage had resulted in a jump in demand for US coal shipments to both Japan and China during the last year – despite a 45-day turnaround time for deliveries between the two regions, the news service said.
The US looked to Asia in 2009 as another supply avenue after a decrease in demand from the European markets; the scenario worked well for both sides because the US could offer more attractive prices than Australian producers.
Thrasher reportedly said that Asian demand should remain as increasingly tight supply continued to force steelmakers to look to other areas for coal, noting that high-quality US coking coal was a good blend product to add to China’s indigenous output.
"The global coking coal market is extremely tight and it will take a number of years before new fields come into production," he said.
Top US exporter Xcoal exported 9.66Mt in 2010.