THE 300-TON MIGHTY CHINA COAL BRONTOSAURUS IN THE ROOM: The Massive Increase In China’s Coal Production This Year

While the rest of the world is cutting back on coal production and shutting down coal-fired power plants, China is going full-steam ahead, doing quite the opposite.  The increase in China’s coal production in 2022 will be nearly three times more than the largest European producers in a year.

If the world thought China peaked in coal production a decade ago, think again.  China’s coal production reached a high of almost 4 billion tons in 2013, declined to a low in 2016, then rebounded, and is estimated to reach a new all-time high in 2022.

The following chart should provide the stunning amount of coal that China is producing.  In just one year, China is on track to add 300 million tons (MT) of new coal production, surpassing Poland and Germany by nearly a factor of three.

China’s increase in coal production this year is more than Poland and Germany combined.  So, much for the European Global Warming initiatives because even if Poland and Germany cut all their coal production and coal-fired plant emissions from 234 MT of coal (Poland – 108 MT & Germany 126 MT), China still added 300 MT… LOL.

Now, if we look at the large RED BAR on the right of the chart, it shows the enormous size of China’s Coal Industry.  China produces more than half of all the coal in the world and burns even more… which it imports.  Furthermore, China’s coal production increase this year of 300 MT accounts for 70% of Russia’s coal production, 63% of Australia, and 57% of the United States.

China’s Big Coal Problem…

Even though China produces lots of coal, it doesn’t have much in the way of inventories at its coal-fired plants.  According to the article from China’s People’s Daily Online:

China sees rising coal storage amid supply push

BEIJING, Nov. 14 (Xinhua) — Coal stockpiles at China’s power plants have seen considerable increases, ensuring energy supply for the winter, the country’s energy regulator said Monday.

Storage of coal at the country’s power plants has been above 170 million tonnes since September, according to the National Energy Administration.

Faced with a grave and complex international energy situation, China has stepped up efforts to ensure stable coal supply and increased production, said Liu Tao, an official with the energy regulator.

If you notice the RED highlighted sentence, this could be a BIG PROBLEM for China.  Why?  Because China burns roughly 350 MT of coal per month.  This isn’t that much in the way of coal inventories compared to the United States.  Check out these two tables on U.S. Coal Consumption & Coal Inventories:


The United States burned 501 MT of coal at its Electric Power Plants.  That is an average of 42 MT per month.  The next table shows U.S. coal inventories as of July 2022.  Due to more coal consumption in the summer, I would imagine the inventories currently are slightly higher.

As of July 2022… the United States Electric Power Sector had 79 MT (million tons) of coal inventories.  So, if we crunch the China vs. USA coal numbers, check out the last chart.

While China has 170 MT of coal inventories, it represents only 15 Days of Supply vs. nearly 60 Days for the United States. I have even seen that many U.S. coal-fired plants have upwards of a 90-day supply of coal at their facility. Who is more vulnerable… LOL??  

It’s no wonder the Chinese are busy as a bee trying to ramp up coal production to add to their inventories for a rainy day.  Folks, 15 days is not much of a coal inventory.  And with China being the 300-Ton Brontosaurus in the room, the situation could get ugly if their coal from MINE-to-PLANT Supply Chain suffers any sizeable disruption.

Lastly, with the world facing Diesel Shortages, China may also have difficulty maintaining coal production at such a high rate because it depends on diesel fuel to mine and transport its coal.

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6 Comments on "THE 300-TON MIGHTY CHINA COAL BRONTOSAURUS IN THE ROOM: The Massive Increase In China’s Coal Production This Year"

  1. Steve, I have a question what is the eroei for coal to diesel? Especially If a company like arch coal made it on their site and used it primarily for themselves.

    • adam,

      It is an expensive process because of the CAPITAL INVESTMENT needed to make a large enough plant to make COAL to LIQUIDS. This is by far the biggest challenge and the reason we don’t see more Coal to Liquids plants.

      For example, Botswana wants to build a new Coal to Liquids plant with a price tag of $2.5 billion, but that was a few years back. I’d imagine it would likely cost over $4 billion. Do you know how much synthetic diesel this $4 billion plant would make daily? A paltry 12,000 barrels of syn-diesel per day. The world consumes roughly 25 million barrels of diesel a day. Can you imagine trying to scale up Coal to Liquids??


      • Thanks for the response Steve and your insight. I was more thinking along the lines of a “arch coal” producing syn-diesel for themselves. So at the bare minimum they could keep their own operation going. It’s just a thought I had

  2. Wow, that’s a lot of coal usage. Do they have the reserves to keep up this level of coal extraction?

    • DocRich,

      They do for a period of time, but the issue will come when China runs into Diesel shortages to mine, extract, and transport their coal.


    • Welcome to the Real World | November 18, 2022 at 10:06 pm |

      China has about 140 billion tons of reserves according to Wiki. At the present rate of mining, that’s roughly 32 years of supply.

      The U.S. has 250 billion tons of reserves and mines about 0.525 billion tons annually. At that rate of extraction, we have about 476 years of supply.

      So, I say let’s put the people of West Virginia back to work.

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