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Updated June 2023



Demand for subbituminous coal is expected to vanish in Alberta as coal-fired power plants are converted to natural gas or retired.

International demand is expected to remain stable for metallurgical and thermal coals, especially from Asian markets and other developing regions over the forecast.

Subbituminous Coal

Demand for Alberta’s subbituminous coal is expected to vanish due to retirements and conversions of coal-fired power plants, such as Heartland Generation Ltd. (formerly Canadian Utilities Limited, a subsidiary of ATCO), Capital Power, and TransAlta. Capital Power’s Genesee Generating Station is currently undergoing a dual-fuel transition and will be fully converted to natural gas in 2023.

Retirement of Coal-Fired Power

The projected retirement and conversion of Alberta’s remaining coal-fired power plants by the end of 2023 is expected to significantly affect the production of subbituminous coal, as nearly all subbituminous coal is for intraprovincial power generation.

In 2018, the Government of Canada amended the Reduction of Carbon Dioxide Emissions from Coal-fired Generation of Electricity Regulations, which set emissions performance standards for coal-fired electricity power plants. The amendments were made to accelerate the phaseout of coal-fired power generation from 2050 to 2030 to achieve Canada’s commitment to reduce overall greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. To accomplish this goal, the amendments require all units to meet a performance standard of 420 tonnes of carbon dioxide per gigawatt per hour of electricity produced (t of CO2/GWh) by 2030.

The outlook for subbituminous coal production has declined due to an accelerated phaseout of coal among electricity generators. TransAlta phased out its coal-fired power generation in Alberta in 2021, resulting in the closure of the Highvale mine. Heartland Generation also phased out its coal-fired power generation in 2021, with the closure of the Sheerness and Paintearth mines. Capital Power is targeting the end of 2023 to complete the conversion of its Genesee site to 100 per cent natural gas, likely prompting the closure of the Genesee coal mine.

Metallurgical Bituminous Coal

Operations resumed at the Grande Cache mine late 2021 and 0.7 megatonnes (Mt) of metallurgical coal exports from Alberta were sent to China and South Korea in 2022. Asia remains Alberta’s primary market for metallurgical coal. However, the long distance from the mine to market creates a competitive disadvantage for Alberta’s exporting coal producers.

Thermal Bituminous Coal

Asia continues to be the largest source of demand for Alberta’s thermal bituminous coal for use in power generation. Despite international demand, growth in exports beyond 2023 will depend on whether new projects in Alberta proceed.


Alberta’s thermal bituminous coal export deliveries increased by 51 per cent from 2021 due to increased production from the Vista mine and resumed operations at the Coal Valley mine.

Most exports of thermal coal were delivered to three countries:

  • Japan increased its demand by 3.4 Mt in 2022 to 5.5 Mt.
  • Korea increased its demand by 0.2 Mt in 2022 to 0.9 Mt.
  • Chile decreased its demand by 0.8 Mt in 2022 to 0.4 Mt.

In 2022, the demand for coal in the European Union (EU) increased as the gas supply from Russia to Europe has been tightened due to the war in Ukraine, resulting in the EU being more reliant on coal for electricity generation.

However, despite the events in 2022, coal demand in most of Europe, Canada, and the U.S. is expected to decline over the long run as they shift towards natural gas and renewables for electricity generation. Coal remains a dominant fuel source for power generation in Asia. Demand for coal in Asia is projected to increase over the forecast period as significant capacity, both planned or under construction, for coal-fired power generation becomes available to supply affordable and reliable energy to the continent’s growing economies, such as India, Indonesia, South Korea, Thailand, and Vietnam. China is the world’s largest producer and consumer of coal, but the southeastern Asian economies are increasingly driving current and projected coal demand.

Most of the Asian demand for thermal bituminous coal is expected to be met by other international suppliers.

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