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Front Page » February 24, 2011 » Focus » Coal production plays big role in Utah, U.S.
Published 1,149 days ago

Coal production plays big role in Utah, U.S.


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Coal has been considered to be the workhorse of man for centuries, possibly thousands of years.

It has been burned in fireplaces and stoves to produce heat in living spaces and in business settings for direct heat. While it is used on a small scale to heat homes, coal is also used for other kinds of industrial production such as to produce paper and in the cement and man-made stone industry. The largest single consumer of coal in the world is as a fuel for power plants and since the beginning of World War II, the amount of coal used for generating electricity has doubled each decade.

With all of that said, how will our future be affected by coal?

That is one of the major questions currently facing the U.S. right now. And the answer to the question is not as easy as it seems.

Coal contributes a lot to the world, especially here in the U.S., and trying to move away from it to focus on other sources doesn't seem to be happening anytime soon - not with the knowledge that coal reserves in the U.S. are currently projected to last for at least 200 years.

Utah generates a significant amount of electricity from locally produced coal, providing the power market with distinct supply advantages and enabling residents to enjoy the low cost of energy. Also, coal constitutes the most widely distributed fossil fuel in the world and 92 percent of the fossil fuel is used to generate power providing approximately one-half of the electricity in the U.S. In Utah, coal alone generates about 90 percent of the state's electricity.

The majority of Utah's coal is found in the Wasatch Plateau, Book Cliffs and Emery Fields. Two of Utah's nine mining operations are considered to be major U.S. coal producers - Dugout in Carbon County and Sufco in Sevier.

In 2008, Utah ranked 14th in the nation for coal production and produced more than 24 million short tons of coal, which represents more than one percent of the total U.S. coal production in that year.

Total coal distribution for 2009 were 1,046 million short tons (mst), a decrease of 9.9 percent compared to 2008.Distribution to domestic destinations were 990 mst, a decrease of 9.3 percent compared to 2008, while distribution to foreign destinations were 56 mst, a decrease of 19.2 percent over 2008.

Wyoming was the leading origin State of coal, accounting for more than 427 mst of domestic shipments, while Texas was the leading State destination for coal, accounting for more than 96 mst of receipts.

Railroads moved about 69 percent of the domestic coal, while Truck accounted for about 16 percent, River about 10 percent and Tramway, Conveyor, and Slurry Pipeline accounted for about 5 percent. Great Lakes, Tidewater Pier and Unknown transport modes accounted for less than 1 percent of the total shipments.

Electric Generation received approximately 94 percent of the domestic distribution while Industrial Plants excluding Coke received about 4 percent, Coke Plants 1 percent, and Commercial & Institutional Plants less than one percent.

In 2009, the Energy Information Administration provided some highlights on coal production, consumption, stocks and mine productivity.

*U.S. coal production decreased 8.3 percent to 1,074.9 million short tons, 96.9 million short tons below 2008's record level.

*Coal consumption decreased 11.0 percent, mostly due to slumping economic conditions as well as the milder winter and cooler summer weather experienced in many parts of the U.S. in 2009.

*Coal stocks were at record levels, reaching 233.0 million short tons at the end of 2009.Coal mine employment was 87,755 in 2009, a decrease of 1.0 percent from the 2008 level.

*Coal mine productivity decreased by 5.9 percent to 5.61 tons per miner per hour, slightly below the 1996 level of 5.69 tons per miner per hour.

The highlights for the 3rd quarter of 2010 showed some differences. The EIA found that in many areas, the use of coal increased including in production and consumption. However there were decreases in areas such as coal exports and coal stocks.

The Highlights for the 3rd Quarter of 2010 include:

*U.S. coal production increased by 4.9 percent to 278 mst between the second and third quarters of 2010.

*Production in the Interior Region increased 9.6 percent between the second and third quarters of 2010, reaching 41.2 mst, a level which is 12.3 percent greater than the same quarter in 2009.

*Total U.S. coal exports decreased significantly 4.1 percent to 21.1 mst between second and third quarters of 2010, but were 39.0 percent greater than the same quarter in 2009.

*Coal imports in the third quarter were 4.7 mst, 7.5 percent less than the second quarter of 2010 and 14.0 percent less than in the third quarter of 2009.

*Total U.S. coal consumption increased by 15.5 percent between the second and third quarters of 2010.The weighted average price of coal delivered to the electric power sector increased from $2.28 per million Btu in the second quarter to $2.29 per million Btu in the third quarter of 2010.

*After a record drawdown of coal stocks between the fourth quarter of 2009 and the first quarter of 2010, consumer coal stocks decreased 9.7 percent between the second and third quarters of 2010, declining to 169.7 mst.

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