China Boosts Australian Coal Imports as Prices Remain Competitive

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Australia could become China’s leading coal supplier after lifting an unofficial import ban from the world’s second-largest coal shipper.

The recent surge in China’s coal imports to a three-year high in March, with a recorded 41.17 million tonnes, represents a significant increase of 151% from the same month in the previous year, as reported by official data.

Australia Energy Commodity Resources Report

In addition, the demand for coal, utilised to generate power and manufacture steel, almost doubled the amount imported during the same period in the previous year, with 101.8 million tonnes of coal imported.

“Australia exports the majority of its coal, capitalising on its abundant coal resources and strong ongoing coal demand from Asia,” Geoscience Australia stated in Australia’s Energy Commodity Resources report last year.

“Australia exported 11,062 PJ of coal and coal products in 2019–20, about 56% of Australia’s total energy exports (including uranium exports; Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources, 2021a).”

Kpler’s Commodity Analysts Data

Preliminary customs figures released on April 13 indicate that China’s coal imports rose to a three-year high in March, but the origin and grade of coal were not specified. Kpler’s commodity analysts have compiled data showing a significant surge in coal imports from Australia.

In March, China imported 2.73 million tonnes of coal from Australia, with 2.13 million tonnes of that amount being thermal coal used in power plants and 417,576 tonnes of coking coal used in steelmaking. Kpler also identified 184,179 tonnes of imports not classified as thermal or coking coal. 

Moreover, imports from Australia increased in March, with 740,536 tonnes classified as thermal and 110,181 tonnes as coking. This was the highest amount since November 2020, the last significant month of imports due to a political dispute between Beijing and Canberra.

It remains to be seen whether the shift in China’s coal imports will have a long-term impact on the market and how it will affect global efforts to transition towards cleaner energy sources.

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