Coal is the most abundant source of fossil fuel energy in the world, considerably exceeding known reserves of oil and gas. The bulk of coal produced worldwide is thermal coal used for power generation. Thermal coal is also supplied as a fuel to other industries such as the cement sector. Metallurgical coal is a key raw material for 70% of the world’s steel industry.
Approximately 5.3 billion tonnes of hard coal is produced globally each year, with the majority used in the country of production. A small volume is traded across land borders such as those between the US and Canada or between the former Soviet Union countries. The international seaborne coal market comprises some 0.7 billion tonnes, of which some 0.5 billion tonnes are thermal coal and 0.2 billion tonnes are metallurgical coal.
Produced in a relatively limited number of countries, metallurgical coal is primarily used in the steelmaking industry and includes hard coking coal, semi-soft coking coal and pulverised coal injection (PCI) coal. The chemical composition of the coal is fundamental to the steel producers’ raw material mix and product quality. The market for this coal has a larger proportion of longer term, annually priced contracts, though increasingly, some steel companies are using short term contracts to meet the balance of their requirements. Demand in this sector is fundamentally driven by economic, industrial and steel demand growth. Price negotiations between Australian suppliers and Japanese steel producers generally, but not always, set the trend that influences settlements throughout the market. Anglo Coal is a significant supplier to virtually all the major steel producing groups in the world.
The thermal coal market is supplied by a larger number of countries and producers than the metallurgical coal market. Thermal coal producers vary greatly in size and operate in a highly competitive market.
Demand for thermal coal is driven by demand for electricity and is also affected by the availability and price of competing fuels such as oil and gas, as well as nuclear power. Driven by varying degrees of deregulation in electricity markets, customers focus increasingly on securing the lowest cost fuel supply at a particular date. This has resulted in a move away from longer term contracts towards a mix of short term contracts, spot pricing, the development of various price indices, hedging and derivative instruments. The extent to which the full range of pricing instruments is used, however, varies from region to region.
Anglo Coal exports thermal coal from South Africa, Australia, Canada and South America to customers throughout the Med-Atlantic and Indo-Pacific. The balance of Anglo Coal’s production is sold domestically in Australia and South Africa. In South Africa, a large portion of domestic sales is made to the state-owned power utility, Eskom, on long term (i.e. life of mine) cost-plus contracts. Sales also take place to domestic industrial sector consumers. In Australia, domestic sales are predominantly to power utilities under long and shorter term contractual arrangements.