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Coal continues slump in 2012, gas production up

Natural gas production has held steady in Carbon County while coal is declining again.

Sun Advocate associate editor

Coal production in Carbon County sagged to a 10-year low in 2012.

Mines in the county pulled out only 6.3 million tons, according to the latest figures compiled by the Utah Geological Survey. That is a little more than half the 11.8 million tons produced during the banner year of 2007.

However, it is more than twice as much output as the low year of 1993, when mines produced 2.6 million tons.

Statewide coal production continued to decline to a 25-year low. The 17.2 million tons produced in 2012 was the lowest since 1987, when output was 16.5 million tons.

Last year did show a reversal of the trend of declining production from federal leases, however. More than four-fifths (84.2 percent) of the coal produced in 2012 come from federal land. That compares to the 48 percent of the previous year.

An increase in production from federal leases and a steep decrease in mining on state land accounted for the marked turnaround.

Natural gas production held fairly constant. Wells in the county produced 90.9 billion cubic feet of gas in 2012. That was up 0.7 percent from 2011.

Carbon County is the state's number two producer of natural gas, but it is a distant second from Uintah County's 328 billion cubic feet.

Despite a soft market for natural gas, Utah's production continued to increase. The state hit a historic high of 490.6 billion cubic feet last year. The rise in natural gas production since 2009 has come mainly from state and tribal lands.

Output from state lands went from 98.1 billion cubic feet in 2009 to 144.7 billion in 2012. Tribal production rose from 25.6 bcf to 36.1 bcf during the same period.

Production on federal leases declined from 292.6 bcf to 276.8 bcf.

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