Coal Trade

China exported 71 Mt of coal in 2005, one-quarter below 2003 when exports peaked at 94 Mt. Imports totalled 25 Mt, mainly to meet demand in southern coastal provinces remote from the major coal-producing regions. In the first half of 2007, China's net coal imports stood at 4 Mt (McCloskey, 2007), a sharp reversal from the 25 Mt net exports of 2006. As recently as 2003, net exports were 83 Mt. This sudden swing to become a net coal importer has had a large impact on international coal trade. The swing began with a spate of serious accidents that led to forced production stoppages in August 2003 at all Shanxi mines (except KSOCMs) and a nationwide rise in coal prices (Huang, 2004). Remedial safety work was not completed until early 2004 by which time international prices had doubled. In the absence of strategic coal stocks and until there is more scope for a free market response within China, price volatility, affecting all regions of the world, is likely to remain a feature of coal trade.

China becomes a net importer of steam coal. By 2015 net imports reach 65 Mtce, which further strengthens the price relationship between domestic and internationally traded coal. In 2030, net imports reach 95 Mtce. By 2015, China will also stop being a net exporter of coking coal. With its high-quality coking coal resources, China has no need to import coking coal despite the gradual growth in demand from 2015 to 2030.

China will continue to export coal, mainly to Chinese Taipei, Korea and Japan, which are closer to the big Chinese export terminals than some of the coastal provinces in the south. Steam-coal exports expand from 66 Mt in 2005 to 178 Mt in 2030 and coking coal exports increase from 5 to 16 Mt during the projection period (Figure 10.13). Overall net imports in 2030 reach 129 Mt.

Coal imports to China mainly meet demand in coastal provinces (see Chapter 13). Key suppliers in 2030 will be Indonesia, Australia, South Africa, Mongolia, Vietnam and Russia.

Figure 10.13: China's Hard Coal Trade (million tonnes)

Figure 10.13: China's Hard Coal Trade (million tonnes)

China Coal Trade
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  • Dennis
    Is china net import coke coal?
    7 years ago

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