SunCoke Energy (NYSE: SXC), a producer of both coal-based coke and metallurgical coal, said April 5 that its total U.S. coke production is estimated to be 1.072 million tons in the first quarter, which would be an increase of 211,000 tons over the 861,000 tons produced in the year-ago quarter.
This increase reflects the successful ramp up to full capacity at the new Middletown, Ohio, facility, which supplies coke to the adjacent AK Steel mill, and improved operations at the Indiana Harbor facility in Indiana. SunCoke’s total U.S. cokemaking capacity utilization was 100% in first quarter versus 95% in the first quarter of 2011.
There was an estimated 144,000 tons of coke produced at the Middletown facility, which began operations in late October 2011. Middletown has achieved 100% capacity utilization ahead of schedule, although it incurred higher than normal operating expenses in the first quarter due to startup-related costs.
The Indiana Harbor facility produced an estimated 37,000 more tons of coke in the first quarter versus the same period in 2011. The Jewell coke facility in Virginia, which primarily gets its feedstock coal from SunCoke coal mines nearby, held steady quarter-to-quarter at 174,000 tons. Coke ovens bake coal into a purified form of carbon to be used in the steelmaking process.
SunCoke tentatively plans to report first quarter 2012 financial results before market open on May 1. It is the largest independent producer of metallurgical coke in the Americas, with cokemaking facilities in Virginia, Indiana, Ohio, Illinois and Brazil. Its coal mining operations, which have more than 114 million tons of proven and probable reserves, are located in Virginia (most of the operations) and West Virginia.