Baltimore bridge collapse will likely block coal exports for weeks

27th March 2024 By: Bloomberg

Baltimore bridge collapse will likely block coal exports for weeks

The collapse of a major Baltimore bridge is likely to shut down coal exports for as many as six weeks and block the transport of up to 2.5-million tons of coal, said Ernie Thrasher, CEO of Xcoal Energy & Resources.

The US exported about 74-million tons of coal last year, with Baltimore the second-largest terminal for the commodity. Plugging up a major coal hub threatens to disrupt global energy supply chains that have finally begun to work out the kinks left over from pandemic slowdowns.

“You’ll see some diversion to other ports but the other ports are pretty busy,” said Thrasher at Xcoal, a Pennsylvania coal trading firm that works with several suppliers. “There’s a limit on how much you can divert.”

Baltimore ships less than 2% of global seaborne coal so the bridge collapse will have little effect on global prices, Thrasher said. He added that the coal that moves out of Baltimore includes a lot of India-bound thermal coal, which is used for electricity generation.

“It will cause some disruption or chaos from a supply-chain standpoint, Thrasher said. “But the big question is the impact on India more than any global impact.”

India gets about 6% of its coal imports from the US. Last fiscal year’s US imports were nearly 14 million tons, roughly split between thermal and metallurgical coal, which is used to make steel.

Shares of companies that move US coal fell Tuesday. Consol Energy saw its shares drop as much as 9.9% and CSX Corp. shares fell as much as 3.1%. Consol’s Marine Terminal in the area of the bridge is used to loading coal into large ocean-going ships and the terminal is served by CSX. Shares in coal miner Arch Resources Inc. fell as much as 5.3% and miner Peabody Energy slid as much as 2.8%.