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Alternative Energy Regulation and the Covid-19 Pandemic Restrict Global Coal Market Growth


Alternative Energy Regulation and the Covid-19 Pandemic Restrict Global Coal Market Growth

IndexBox has just published a new report: ‘World – Coal – Market Analysis, Forecast, Size, Trends and Insights’. Here is a summary of the report’s key findings.

In 2020, the decline in the global coal market gathered momentum, against the Covid-19 pandemic. The low cost of natural gas, combined with the development of alternative energy sources and stricter environmental regulations, are pushing the coal energy sector into stagnation. In the medium term, only the metallurgical industry is set to see stable demand for coal.

Key Trends and Insights

Since 2019, global coal consumption has been in decline, against poor growth in the demand for electricity, low natural gas prices and the enhanced use of alternative sources of energy. Data released by the International Energy Agency (IEA) indicated that, in 2019, coal-fired power production fell in the European Union by 23%, and in the USA by 17%.

In 2020, the European Union (-19%, -111 Мт) and the USA (-14%, -87 Mt), saw a significant decline in coal-fired power production. This was conditioned by the new ‘Green Deal’ aimed at the strategic reduction of carbon emissions.

In 2020, increased coal-fired electricity production was recorded only in China and ASEAN, where coal total consumption saw a growth of approx. 1.2%.

Global coal demand is set to decrease further by 2025, hampered by the new climate regulation initiatives, particularly, in the EU. Even the anticipated expansion of the coal sector in India could not alone shape the global demand for coal. China is reaching a plateau in terms of coal consumption and several countries committed to reduce coal consumption (Korea, Vietnam, Bangladesh, the Philippines and Egypt) in 2020.

The global consumption of metallurgical coal also fell by 3.2% in 2020, as a result of the decline in global steel production. Should the Covid-19 restrictions be completely lifted in 2021, alloy production is expected to recover, which is set to restore demand for coal.

China Remains the Largest Coal Consuming Country

China (4,570M tonnes) remains the largest coal-consuming country worldwide, accounting for 39% of total volume. Moreover, coal consumption in China exceeded the figures recorded by the second-largest consumer, India (1,053M tonnes), fourfold. The U.S. (644M tonnes) ranked third in terms of total consumption with a 5.5% share (IndexBox estimates).

From 2012 to 2019, the average annual growth rate of volume in China stood at -1.1%. In the other countries, the average annual rates were as follows: India (+5.5% per year) and the U.S. (-4.8% per year).

In value terms, China ($483.6B) led the market, alone. The second position in the ranking was occupied by India ($145B). It was followed by the U.S.

The countries with the highest levels of coal per capita consumption in 2019 were South Africa (3.89 tonne per person), China (3.13 tonne per person) and Russia (3 tonne per person).

From 2012 to 2019, the biggest increases were in India, while coal per capita consumption for the other global leaders experienced more modest paces of growth.

China (282M tonnes), India (241M tonnes), Japan (183M tonnes) and South Korea (141M tonnes) represented roughly 62% of total imports of coal in 2019. It was distantly followed by Taiwan (Chinese) (67M tonnes), mixing up a 4.9% share of total imports. Malaysia (38M tonnes), Turkey (30M tonnes), the Philippines (30M tonnes), Germany (29M tonnes), Viet Nam (25M tonnes), Thailand (24M tonnes), Russia (22M tonnes) and Brazil (21M tonnes) followed a long way behind the leaders.

In value terms, China ($24.6B), Japan ($19.3B) and India ($17.3B) constituted the countries with the highest levels of imports in 2019, together accounting for 51% of global imports. South Korea, Taiwan (Chinese), Brazil, Malaysia, Germany, Turkey, Viet Nam, the Philippines, Thailand and Russia lagged somewhat behind, together comprising a further 31% (IndexBox estimates).

Driven by rising demand for coal worldwide, the market is expected to start an upward consumption trend over the next decade. The performance of the market is forecast to increase slightly, with an anticipated CAGR of +1.4% for the period from 2019 to 2030, which is projected to bring the market volume to 13,602M tonnes by the end of 2030.

Source: IndexBox AI Platform


The Low-Carbon Agenda and the Rising Demand for Innovative Fuels to Drive the Global Ammonia Market

IndexBox has just published a new report: ‘World – Anhydrous Ammonia – Market Analysis, Forecast, Size, Trends, and Insights’. Here is a summary of the report’s key findings.

Ammonia constitutes one of the world’s basic chemical products widely important for its use as a raw material for the production of mineral fertilizers, nitric acid, explosives, and polymers. Agricultural fertilizers account for near 80% of the world’s ammonia use.

Due to the continuous growth of the world’s population and a stable increase in world GDP, the need for crop-based foods and animal feed is rising, which is a key fundamental factor in the growth of demand for ammonia.

The global ammonia market stood at  $90.7B, according to IndexBox estimates. Global consumption peaked at $100.7B in 2013; however, from 2014 to 2019, consumption remained at a lower figure. In physical terms, global ammonia consumption was estimated at approximately 182M tonnes in 2019, declining slightly against the previous year.

In early 2020, the global economy entered a period of the crisis caused by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. The quarantine measures that put on halt production and transport activity disrupted economic growth heavily throughout the world. According to World Bank forecasts, despite the gradual relaxing of restrictive measures and unprecedented government support in countries that faced the pandemic in early 2020, the annual decline of global GDP could amount to -4.3%, which is the deepest global recession being seen over the past eight decades.

However, the ammonia market remains relatively resilient to the pandemic. In the second quarter of 2020, there was a slight drop in demand from mineral fertilizer producers due to the introduced isolation regime and a shortage of labor, many regions missed handling the spring sowing season. After the lifting of restrictive measures, the demand for ammonia recovered, and companies adapted to new conditions of supply chains and sales channels.

China (48M tonnes) remains the largest ammonia-consuming country worldwide, accounting for 27% of the total volume. Moreover, ammonia consumption in China exceeded the figures recorded by the second-largest consumer, the U.S. (21M tonnes), twofold. India (19M tonnes) ranked third in terms of total consumption with a 10% share.

In China, ammonia consumption contracted by an average annual rate of -2.4% over the period from 2012-2019. The remaining consuming countries recorded the following average annual rates of consumption growth: the U.S. (+2.7% per year) and India (+2.6% per year).

In value terms, China ($33.4B) led the market, alone. The second position in the ranking was occupied by India ($12.1B). It was followed by the U.S.

With the pandemic’s impact, it is expected that in 2020, global consumption of ammonia should remain nearly unchanged against 2019. In the medium term, as the global economy gets back to work, the market will start recovering, driven by major fundamentals that existed before the crisis. Overall, market performance is forecast to pursue a positive trend over the next decade, expanding with an anticipated CAGR of +0.4% for the period from 2019 to 2030, which is projected to bring the market volume to 191 M tonnes by the end of 2030 (IndexBox estimates).

New areas of industrial use of ammonia are emerging, which are becoming increasingly relevant in the context of increased attention to environmental protection and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Standard industrial synthesis of ammonia from nitrogen and hydrogen from methane produces more carbon dioxide than many other chemical industries. The largest producers are developing the production of “green ammonia” and positioning it as a more environmentally friendly product in comparison with conventional ammonia.

Another promising opportunity for the use of ammonia is its use as a carbon-free fuel. Compared to hydrogen, ammonia has the advantage of being easier to transport and store because a large amount of energy could be stored in smaller volumes of a substance.

Given this background, Japan is considering replacing coal fuel for power plants with ammonia, and it is also emerging as a marine fuel. Ammonia as an energy source complies with the new IMO 2020 requirements that limit the sulfur content in bunker fuel and will reduce CO2 emissions to target environmental indicators.

Increased attention to the regulation of carbon emissions in the EU and large-scale measures under the Green Deal action plan, as well as the return of the United States to the Paris Climate Agreement, should contribute to the search for alternative fuels, including ammonia, and transforming energy markets. If promising technologies of ammonia fuel become widespread in the industry, the growth of production of low-carbon fuel may become a new driver of the world ammonia market in the medium and long term.

The changes in the ‘green’ legislation could potentially lead to market transformations in the energy sector. In connection with the announcement by the European Union of plans to introduce a cross-border carbon tax, many countries that do not produce “green” ammonia may lose their positions in the European sales market. In the medium term, this situation will force producers to restructure their processes towards obtaining “green” ammonia and may lead to significant shifts in the structure of the global ammonia value chain.

Source: IndexBox AI Platform

Plastic Packaging Market

The European Plastic Packaging Market Overcomes the Pandemic and Prepares to Face the New Green Regulation

IndexBox has just published a new report: ‘EU – Plastic Packaging – Market Analysis, Forecast, Size, Trends and Insights’. Here is a summary of the report’s key findings.

According to the latest statistics from Eurostat, the dynamics of plastic packaging production in 2020 practically mirrored that of 2019. Despite the decrease in the output of plastic packaging in April-June 2020 by about 8% compared to March and its subsequent recovery, these fluctuations fit into the ‘normal’ seasonal trend, typical for both 2019 and 2020. The average annual production in 2020 was also approximately equal to the volume of 2019. Consequently, the plastic packaging market remains resilient to the crisis caused by the pandemic.

The EU plastic packaging market totals $31B (IndexBox estimates). The largest plastic packaging markets in the European Union include Germany ($4.8B), France ($4.7B) and the UK ($4.2B), together accounting for 44% of the total market. These countries were followed by Spain, Italy, Poland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden, Denmark, the Czech Republic, Greece and Romania, which together accounted for a further 46%

Limitations in the HoReCa segment have led to changes in sales channels since individual retail packaging has become more in demand than bulk packaging. During the pandemic, attention to hygiene and safety has increased, which has contributed to the continued popularity of plastic individual packaging because it is easy to wash and disinfect.

During the period of isolation, most shops, cafes and restaurants began to expand take-out and home delivery services. The surge in contactless shopping has led to an increase in the consumption of plastic packagings like plastic bags and containers. As consumers are more likely to cook and snack at home, plastic packaging manufacturers could also extend their product ranges with containers of various types and dimensions, including family and single-person boxes convenient for different scenarios of eating, in an effort to hold the market.

According to the New European Green Deal, by 2030, absolutely all plastic packaging consumed in the EU must be recyclable or recyclable. Tighter waste controls could push the plastic packaging market to transform supply chains. Manufacturers will be forced to switch to making plastic packaging suitable for multiple reuse and subsequent recycling, while the production of non-recyclable types of packaging should decrease in the future.

Another problem is a large amount of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere during the process of recycling plastic packaging. The European Green Deal aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030, therefore, European plastic packaging manufacturers will be forced to use carbon capture technologies in their plants, or look for other ways to reduce carbon footprint, which could lead to higher costs of plastic packaging.

Taking into account the development of plastic recycling, any radical abandonment of plastic packaging is currently not expected. Plastic containers feature a relatively low cost due to low prices for hydrocarbons, light weight, and suitability for disinfection and washing. The exit from the pandemic may take a long time due to the threat of the second and subsequent waves, therefore, the need for food delivery and for home and retail packaging is expected to continue.

Source: IndexBox AI Platform

global trade

Global Trade Trends: What Will 2021 Unwrap?

2021 is a handful of oliebollen away in the rearview mirror and it’s time to prepare for new events. What will global trade unwrap? A number of nuggets below.

Think Green

No, not that green. Real green. As in: will the U.S. and European Union’s green initiatives put pressure on their trading partners to invest in more environmentally friendly manufacturing, transportation methods, or forms of energy? For example, will U.S.–Mexico relations be strained because of the demand for greener solutions in manufacturing plants?


It is expected that sanctions will remain a prime measure to put pressure on political regimes. When countries improve their standing, however, sanctions can get lifted: the Sudan sanctions are already lifted, and the question is if more will follow. Iran will demand a reprieve if the nuclear treaty is to be put back in place and Cuba may get another look with a Democratic administration. Anticipating the impact, or perhaps the opportunities, is important. 


Lead by retail growth at a high rate of ~20-23% until 2020, ecommerce exploded last year (Forbes noted the May 2020 year-over-year growth was 77%) and will stay a part of every company’s selling strategy. Forced or accelerated by the pandemic, companies have adjusted their customer interactions, and ecommerce strategies will remain an integral part of all global businesses. No longer confined to specific market segments, this change drastically affects how global trade is conducted and where resources will be spent. Shipping directly to customers affects many aspects of the global supply chain and companies now must account for shipping and compliance aspects that are different from previous models.

Various governments (e.g., EU, Australia) already implemented or announced changes regarding treatment of low-value shipments (value-added taxes are no longer waived) and, with more revenue at stake, more governments will follow that trend. Additional scrutiny on the compliance front is another logical step. The ecommerce burst included markets outside of the traditional ecommerce heavy retail products. Industries with a heavier compliance burden (e.g., dual-use goods) have also shifted to online models and are dealing with non-traditional importers that will be less familiar with required compliance measures. New legislation/procedures will certainly make their entry in 2021 to ensure products do not end up in the wrong hands.


No surprises here—the shadows Brexit threw ahead are now being caught up with. One thing perhaps underestimated in the mayhem of new regulations and immediate requirements is that the Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) that were mostly copied and pasted to avoid disruptions will get a closer look around Q3 2021. This may result in new Rules of Origin (i.e., requirements to meet preferential thresholds) or even different duty rates.


Countries such as Vietnam and Cambodia made significant infrastructure investments and it looks like efforts are paying off. Manufacturing in South East Asia (and, for example, in the Philippines, Indonesia and Laos) is growing exponentially and with new locations come new compliance requirements. New Rules of Origin, documents, shipping lanes and trading partners make for exciting yet busy changes.

Besides South East Asia, Africa is also making strides. With large investments from China (among others in South Africa, Alegria and Zambia), infrastructure and capabilities improve, and the next global shift is in the works.

Tariff Measures

Regarding the additional duty rates the Trump administration put in place on imports (either on specific goods and/or from specific countries), it is to be expected those will be reduced if not nullified over the next months or years. That does not mean things will go back to how they were prior to 2016. The U.S. is expected to continue operating more forcefully when it comes to supporting U.S. businesses and industries against unfair third-country competition, and that includes protectionary measures. Perhaps there will be an uptake in the more traditional Anti-Dumping/Countervailing Duty cases through the WTO as a preferred path over unilateral actions.

US Changes

Undoubtedly the change in administration in the U.S. will have a significant impact on its position towards global trade. Balancing the need to keep a tight grip on foreign trade (especially with crucial partners such as China, the U.K. and the EU) with a more outward-facing policy will be an interesting affair for new Secretary of State Andrew Blinken. Expanding and re-establishing trade relationships will also be on the agenda. This will likely include a fresh effort to revisit the Trans-Pacific Partnership (U.S. – ASEAN), the review of a few other FTAs that were slowed down and, further down the line, even a Trans-Atlantic (U.S. – EU) pact, possibly spearheaded by a U.K. – U.S. agreement first.

All in all, 2021 will not allow companies to take a breather. If anything, the agility of supply chain strategies will be tested further this year.