With coal prices in steep slide, even once bullish analyst sees risky investment

Eric Shew News

By  , 
Seattle Times reporters
Coal-export terminals proposed at Cherry Point in Whatcom County and in Longview, Cowlitz County, are irrelevant because Asian coal markets are so weak, according to an industry analyst who has offered some of the industry’s most bullish forecasts.

Asian coal markets are so weak that two export terminals proposed for Washington once considered vital are now irrelevant, according to an industry analyst who typically has offered some of the industry’s most bullish forecasts.

The Feb. 10 report was written by Andy Roberts, an analyst at Wood Mackenzie, who less than three years ago was boosting the long-term prospects of the Gateway Project proposed at Cherry Point in Whatcom County and the Millennium bulk terminal in Longview, Cowlitz County.

But rapid changes in coal’s fortunes show what a miscalculation the investment in the ports was, Roberts wrote.

In addition to stiff opposition from tribal nations and community and conservation groups, the economic wind has fallen out of the projects’ sails. Asian demand has weakened to the point that coal from the Powder River Basin won’t be competitive in the market until well after 2020, Roberts wrote.

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