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August 19, 2021 @ 10:58 +03:00
Soaring electricity demand, infrastructure woes and a surge in global gas prices have triggered an extraordinary rally for the world’s least liked commodity. Australian thermal coal at Newcastle Port, the benchmark for the vast Asian market, has climbed 106% this year to more than $166 per metric ton, according to the latest weekly assessment by commodity price provider Argus.
The Newcastle weekly index, which stood at a 2020 low of $46.18 in early September, now appears to be closing in on an all-time high of $195.20 from July 2008. Its South African equivalent, the Richards Bay index, ended the week through to Aug. 13 at $137.06 per metric ton, up more than 55% this year. To put thermal coal’s remarkable rally into some context, international benchmark Brent crude is one of few assets to have recorded comparable gains this year. The oil contract is up 33% year-to-date. The resurgence of thermal coal, which is burned to generate electricity, raises serious questions about the so-called “energy transition.” To be sure, coal is the most carbon-intensive fossil fuel in terms of emissions and therefore the most important target for replacement in the pivot to renewable alternatives.
Energy analysts cited a variety of reasons for thermal coal’s breakneck rally. These included rebounding power demand in China, Beijing’s informal ban on coal imports from Australia, supply disruptions in Australia, South Africa and Colombia, and rising global gas prices. For the latter, analysts at Argus said Europe had incurred unseasonably low gas storages, weak liquified natural gas imports and modest pipeline imports from Russia. It has coincided with gas prices rising more sharply than coal and thus led to an increased incentive to burn coal at the expense of gas for power generation.
Soaring demand for the world’s least-liked commodity sees thermal coal prices jump 106% this year, CNBC, Aug 19