(Montel) European thermal coal imports could plunge around 60% year on year in October, amid sluggish demand and buoyant stock levels, preliminary estimates showed on Thursday.
Seven European countries – the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Belgium, Germany, France and the UK – looked set to import 2m tonnes in total this month, a decline of around 2.8m tonnes from October last year, according to provisional data from consultancy Kpler.
The Netherlands, with large import hubs at Rotterdam and Amsterdam, would import 1.1m tonnes, which would be 1.4m tonnes lower on the year.
Germany would be the second-largest importer of the group, taking around 0.4m tonnes, followed closely by Italy with 0.3m tonnes.
On the supply front, Colombia was seen to be the largest supplier, shipping around 0.9m tonnes, albeit 0.2m tonnes lower on the year, followed by the US with 0.5m tonnes and South Africa with 0.3m tonnes.
“The beginning of the year was good [for coal demand], but it’s become very quiet,” said a trader at a firm in Germany. “There are people still taking very small volumes, but all the big utilities are not buying much, so prices are very low.”
In coal trading, the API 2 front-month contract has averaged USD 129/t in the month to date on Ice Futures, down from USD 271/t in the same period last year.
“With gas prices still going up, it should become more convenient to burn coal,” the trader said, pointing out, however, that there were few signs of that being the case. “Until the first quarter of next year, we have to be patient,” he said.
Meanwhile, Europe's benchmark gas price, the TTF front month, was last seen changing hands at around EUR 47/MWh, – some 20% higher than at the start of the month. Prices have risen due to some supply concerns and the prospect of colder weather.
Nevertheless, one coal trader pointed out that ARA coal terminals were "fully stocked".
Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Antwerp, or ARA, coal stocks were pegged this week at around 6m tonnes, well above the five-year average of 5.6m tonnes, according to Montel estimates.
However, the estimate for October imports could see a month on month increase of 0.5m tonnes, the provisional data showed.