Coal market & pricing

Coal is a global industry, with coal mined commercially in over 50 countries and used in over 70. Coal is readily available from a wide variety of sources in a well-supplied worldwide market.

Coal Transport

Coal can be transported to demand centres quickly, safely and easily by ship and rail. A large number of suppliers are active in the international coal market, ensuring a competitive and efficient market. Coal markets today are very dynamic: a variety of qualities are traded, new price indexes have been created for different qualities in different regions and an increasing amount of paper trading is taking place.

Coal trade

Coal is traded all over the world, with coal shipped huge distances by sea to reach markets. Overall international trade in coal reached 1383 Mt in 2014; while this is a significant amount of coal it accounts for about 25% of total coal consumed. Most coal is used in the country in which it is produced. Transportation costs account for a large share of the total delivered price of coal, therefore international trade in steam coal is effectively divided into two regional markets:

The Atlantic market

Made up of importing countries in Western Europe, notably the UK, Germany and Spain.

The Pacific market

This consists of developing and OECD Asian importers, notably Japan, Korea and Chinese Taipei. Indonesia remains the world’s largest coal exporter. It exported 410 Mt of coal in 2014. Australia remains the world's largest supplier of coking coal - exporting 180 Mt of coking coal (as well as 194 Mt of steam coal).

  • Coal trade
  • Coal transportation
  • Top coal exporters & importers
  • Pricing
  • Coal market news

Photo courtesy of Assocarboni

Coal is likely to remain the most affordable fuel for power generation in many developing and industrialised countries for decades.

Coal transportation

The way that coal is transported to where it will be used depends on the distance to be covered. Coal transportation is generally carried out by conveyor or truck over short distances. Trains and barges are used for longer distances within domestic markets, or alternatively coal can be mixed with water to form a coal slurry and transported through a pipeline.

Coal Transport

Top coal exporters & importers

Top coal exporters (2014)
  Total of which Steam Coking
Indonesia 410 Mt 408 Mt 2 Mt
Australia 375 Mt 195 Mt 180 Mt
Russia 155 Mt 133 Mt 22 Mt
USA 88 Mt 31 Mt 57 Mt
Colombia 80 Mt 79 Mt 1 Mt
South Africa 76 Mt 76 Mt 0 Mt
Canada 35 Mt 4 Mt 31 Mt

Source: IEA 2015

Top coal importers (2013e)
  Total of which Steam Coking
PR China 292 Mt 229 Mt 63 Mt
India 239 Mt 189 Mt 50 Mt
Japan 188 Mt 137 Mt 51 Mt
South Korea 131 Mt 97 Mt 34 Mt
Chinese Taipei 67 Mt 60 Mt 7 Mt
Germany 57 Mt 47 Mt 10 Mt
UK 41 Mt 35 Mt 6 Mt

Source: IEA 2015


Coal pricing

Coal prices have historically been lower and more stable than oil and gas prices. Coal is likely to remain the most affordable fuel for power generation in many developing and industrialised countries for decades. In countries with energy intensive industries, the impact of fuel and electricity price increases is compounded. High prices can lead to a loss of competitive advantage and in prolonged cases, loss of the industry altogether. Countries with access to indigenous energy supplies, or to affordable fuels from a well-supplied world market, can avoid many of these negative impacts, enabling further economic development and growth.

Coal market & pricing enquiries

The World Coal Association does not provide information on coal pricing. We are unable to supply pricing information, market forecasts or advice on where to buy and sell coal because of our ‘Competition and Compliance’ guidelines. Please direct enquiries on these areas to the companies and organisations such as: