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Energy Snapshot of the Week

The growing role of international trade in coal markets

The share of coal in the world energy supply increased from 25% in 1973 to almost 30% in 2013. Traditionally coal was (and still can be) a somewhat local resource, but China's growing need for coal to sustain its economic development has led to acceleration in the growth (in both volume and share terms) of internationally traded coal: exports totalled 1 300 megatonnes (MT) last year, more than seven times the 185 Mt 40 years earlier. Almost 20% of production now is traded, up from a few percentage points in 1973. The top five coal importers (China, Japan, India, Korea, and Chinese Taipei) are in Asia, while the top five exporters (Indonesia, Australia, Russia, the United States and Colombia) are more scattered around the globe. The new coal trade map has led to massive investments in coal infrastructure to secure imports and exports.

More information on coal trade and consumption will be available in the forthcoming IEA publications: Coal Information 2014, available later this quarter, and Medium-Term Coal Market Report 2013, available in December.