Coal Information 2019

Comprehensive historical review and current market trends in the world coal sector
In this report

Coal Information provides a comprehensive review of historical and current market trends in the world coal sector. It provides an overview of world coal developments covering coal production and coal reserves, coal demand by type, coal trade and coal prices. A detailed and comprehensive statistical picture of historical and current coal developments in the OECD member countries, by region and individually is presented in tables and charts. Complete coal balances and coal trade data for selected years are presented on major non-OECD coal-producing and -consuming countries, with summary statistics on coal supply and end-use statistics for many other countries and regions worldwide. Coal Information is one of a series of annual IEA statistical publications on major energy sources; other reports are Electricity Information, Natural Gas Information, Oil Information and Renewables Information. 

Data Service

World coal production increased in 2018 by 250 Mt, an increase of 3.3%, driven by increases in steam and coking coal production.

World total coal production, 1971-2018


China has been the world’s leading coal producer since 1985 and retained the top spot last year, producing 3 550 Mt of coal in total, 4.5% higher than in 2017. Meanwhile after a brief increase in 2017, production in the United States decreased by 2.5% in 2018, continuing the long-term trend that has seen production fall by more than one third since 2008.

While the list of top ten coal producers remained unchanged, there was a marked difference in production between OECD and non-OECD countries. While the United States, Australia, Germany and Poland posted decreases, all non-OECD countries in the top ten increased production.

OECD countries accounted for around 40% of world steam coal production until 2000, however this share has generally declined over the past two decades. Non-OECD countries have increased their steam coal production, predominantly led by the expansion of the Chinese coal industry.

The recent decrease in coking coal production that began in 2015 was reversed in 2018, with world production recovering to 1033 Mt.

Worldwide, lignite production decreased in 2018 by 2.5%. OECD lignite production decreased by 3.8%, led by the United States, Australia and Germany. On the other hand, Turkey increased its lignite production to 85 Mt outpacing Russia, which also posted a considerable increase of 6.5 Mt.

Over the past decades, global coal trade has grown consistently faster than global consumption.

In 2015, world trade decreased slightly to 21.2% of consumption, before increasing once again to 23.6%, the highest level on record.

Steam and coking coal trade as a percentage of consumption in selected regions, 1971-2018


Export trade of all coal types increased by 4.2% in 2018 with steam coal exports increasing by 4.1% and coking coal exports by 3.8%. Total exports have more than doubled since 2000.

Indonesia and Australia remained the world’s largest coal exporters in 2018, accounting for 30.9% and 26.9% of exports on a tonnage basis. Russia hit record exports in 2018, exceeding 2017 levels by 10.6%. Taken together, the ten largest exporting countries shipped 97.8% of global coal exports during 2018.

Total coal exports by major exporters, 1971-2018


Total world coal imports were 1424 Mt in 2018, a 3.6% increase from 2017.

The main contributors to this rise were China, with imports increasing by 3.9%, and India at 14.7%, while the most notable decline was in Germany.

Imports to Asia Oceania (including China) increased to 1084 Mt, or 76.2% of all imports; since 2009 the top five individual importers have all been from this region. Although China is responsible for the most significant proportion, Japan, Chinese Taipei and Korea imported significant quantities of steam coal for electricity generation and coking coal for steel production in 2018.

Total coal imports by major importers, 1971-2018


In 2018, total global coal consumption in energy terms increased by 1.2% or 66.0 Mtce, as OECD consumption decreased by 3.2% and non-OECD countries increased consumption by 2.5%. OECD coal consumption hit its lowest level since 1976, 27.4% lower than the maximum coal consumption the OECD reached in 2007.

World coal consumption, 1971-2018


Consumption in China rose by 1.0% in 2018 to 2813.7 Mtce, continuing the trend from the previous year after consecutive drops over 2013-2016. The United States saw a major decrease in consumption in 2018, while India saw a major increase.

World coal consumption variation, 2017-2018


World steam coal consumption was up 1.6% in 2018. Steam coal consumption in the OECD decreased by 33.6 Mt to 1 112 Mt, including the decrease of 16.1 Mt in the United States and 5.4 Mt in Spain.

Global coking coal consumption increased in 2018 by 1.1% reaching 992.1 Mt, an increase of 115.1% since 2001. Consumption within China accounts for 59.2% of global coking coal consumption. Coking coal consumption in the OECD decreased by 1.2%, remaining 11.3% below 2008, pre-economic crisis.

2018 global lignite consumption was 793.5 Mt, a decrease of 2.9% from 2017. Germany remained the largest producer and consumer of lignite in 2018, using 166.3 Mt, ahead of Turkey and Russia. Consumption in the United States decreased by 18.7%, as it become the world’s fifth largest consumer.

Coal continues to be primarily used for the generation of electricity and commercial heat, with 66.5% of primary coal being used for this purpose globally in 2017 (82.3% in OECD countries).

In OECD countries in 2018, the share of electricity and heat produced from primary coal as a fuel fell to a new low of 25.2%, down from 26.7% in 2017 and 44.4% in 1985.

Primary coal's breakdown by broad activity, 1978-2017