coal

237 years of independence and energy

Jul 4, 2013

The Energy Information Administration says that in the 237 years since the adoption of the Declaration of Independence the U.S. has gone from using primarily renewable resources like wood and water to using fossil fuels.

Statistician at the EIA, Tyson Brown, says he compiled the brief just for fun, but says it’s still enlightening to look at the long-term changes.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration released its “Today in Energy” brief today, which details, among other things, coal exports from the U.S. According to the report, March had the highest number of coal exports yet. The top importing countries were China, the Netherlands, the UK, South Korea, and Brazil. The top five ports were all in the southern and eastern United States. Those ports exported over two and half times more coal in March alone than the Northwest ports did for all of 2012. Powder River Basin coal mostly ships from the Northwest.

The Sierra Club and partner organizations filed a lawsuit today against BNSF Railways and several coal producers. The suit claims the companies are violating the federal Clean Water Act when they discharge coal dust along railways from the Powder River Basin without permits to do so.

Pacific Northwest Regional Press Secretary for Sierra Club’ Beyond Coal campaign, Krista Collard, says a letter of intent to file the suit was sent to all parties two months ago, but they did little to limit coal dust pollution.

Wyoming hosts mining reclamation conference

Jun 4, 2013

Mining industry representatives and researchers are gathering in Laramie this week for the meeting of the American Society of Mining and Reclamation. The last time Wyoming hosted the American Society of Mining and Reclamation was in 2007. Peter Stahl, director of the Wyoming Reclamation and Restoration Center, says the fact that the industry gathering has returned to Wyoming so soon is a testament to the state’s role in the field of land reclamation.

As demand for coal has dropped domestically, producers have turned to exports abroad as a way to make up for market losses at home. 2012 was a record year for coal exports out of the US.

The demand for coal in China and other Asian markets, has raised hopes for coal producers in the Powder River Basin. They’ve helped develop plans for expanded port facilities in the Northwestern US and some coal companies, including Arch Coal, have invested money in the proposed ports.

Gov. Mead releases WY energy policy

May 13, 2013

Governor Matt Mead and his policy director, Shawn Reese, released an energy policy for Wyoming at a press conference today. The policy contains 47 initiatives broken down into categories including economic competitiveness and expansion, regulation, conservation, and education. Reese said there were a number of hallmark initiatives.

Three protesters were arrested yesterday at the Peabody Energy shareholders meeting in Gillette. United Mine Workers of America representatives were demonstrating against pension cuts to retired miners that came about when Peabody unloaded some of its pension responsibilities on a company that has since declared bankruptcy. Other demonstrators were there to protest Peabody projects and conduct. An organizer from Missouri, Arielle Klagsbrun, said the meeting was held at Gillette College and the arrests happened in the parking lot… 

Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead is asking the White House to not evaluate the effects of greenhouse gases that would be emitted by exporting U.S. coal and burning it overseas.

Wyoming is the nation's leading coal-producing state and state officials are concerned about falling domestic demand for coal as a result of global warming concerns. State officials are pushing to secure ports in the Northwest to allow coal exports to Asia.

Protesters are gathering in Gillette this week to demonstrate against the Patriot Coal Company during Arch and Peabody Coal’s annual shareholder meetings. Patriot was formed in 2007 when Peabody unloaded its operations east of the Mississippi, along with its long-term health care obligations to some of its retirees. Arch formed a similar company, called Magnum, which was later acquired by Patriot along with another set of benefited retirees.  However, Patriot filed bankruptcy last summer, citing “substantial and unsustainable legacy costs.”

Protesters are gathering in Gillette this week to demonstrate against the Patriot Coal Company during Arch and Peabody Coal’s annual shareholder meetings. Patriot was formed in 2007 when Peabody unloaded its operations east of the Mississippi, along with its long-term health care obligations to some of its retirees. Arch formed a similar company, called Magnum, which was later acquired by Patriot along with another set of benefited retirees.  However, Patriot filed bankruptcy last summer, citing “substantial and unsustainable legacy costs.”

A new study conducted by the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University reports that as more EPA regulations go into effect, natural gas is likely to become even more attractive to utilities than coal.

Co-author of the study, Professor Lincoln Pratson, says that one reason coal will become less desired is the expensive emission controls the coal plants will have to install.

The only pollutant that natural gas plants produce that the EPA regulates are NOx emissions.  NOx stands for pollutants which contain NO and NO2, gases formed during combustion.

The U-S Energy Information Administration says coal-fired electric power plants are generating more energy this year than last , but Wyoming coal production numbers are still below last year’s.

Wyoming Mining Association President Marion Loomis says that while interest in coal is up right now, the outlook for 2013 is still not good for Wyoming’s coal industry.

“We’re certainly not back to what we’ve seen in prior years, and our production is still down. It’s looking like it will still be a tough year.” 

The Sierra Club says it plans to sue railroad and coal companies in 60 days for spilled coal in the Northwest, and sent out letters of intent to the parties. The environmental group has been testing land and water around railroad tracks, and claims to have found pieces of coal and coal dust that, they say, blows off the train cars from mines in Wyoming and Montana.

A new US Geological Survey study says that only a small percentage of coal in the Powder River Basin is cost-effective to mine in the current market. According to the USGS, there are more than one trillion tons of coal present in the Basin, of which 162 billion tons could technically be recovered. Of that, it would only be economically viable to mine about 25 billion tons in today’s market.

Project Chief for the US Coal Assessment Program, Jim Luppens, says new geologic data made the study possible.

Coal is weakening its dominion over the energy market, and according to a presentation at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, new EPA regulations are not to blame.

Wyoming lawmakers including Sen. John Barrasso and Rep. Cynthia Lummis have pointed to what they call President Obama’s war on coal as the reason for declining coal production.

But David Schlissel of the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis -- who led the presentation -- says other factors are responsible.

Coal producers in the U.S. are looking to markets abroad to make up for decreasing demand at home. But a recent investigation by Thomson Reuters news service suggests there might be royalty underpayments on those shipments. Wyoming Public Radio’s Irina Zhorov reports that royalty question is still unresolved.

DOI to investigate coal sales to overseas markets

Feb 11, 2013

The US Department of the Interior has assembled a task force and an action plan to investigate coal exports. The move comes after a letter from US Senators Wyden, of Oregon, and Murkowski, of Alaska, asked the agency to find out whether coal companies are properly reporting their sales. Increasingly, Wyoming’s coal producers are examining markets overseas to make up for a slump in domestic sales. Companies can fetch significantly higher prices for coal in Asian markets, and by selling through an affiliated intermediary, they could report the initial sale instead of the higher, final sale.

With the start of the legislative session Tuesday, lawmakers have begun to lay out ideas for state income opportunities and budget priorities. With a slow-down in energy revenue predicted for the next decade, House Speaker, Thomas Lubnau, says Wyoming should look for new opportunities abroad.

“15% of Australia’s gross domestic product, about 1 in every 5 dollars of the Australian economy, is shipping coal to Asia. And there’s a huge opportunity for Wyoming to hop into that market if we can figure out a way to get ports either on the Gulf Coast or in Washington or Oregon.”

Preliminary numbers released by the U.S. Energy Information Administration indicate Wyoming mines produced about 9 percent less coal in 2012 than in 2011.

Mines in the state produced an estimated 398 million tons in 2012, compared to 436 million tons in 2011. Nationwide, coal production dropped about 7 percent.

Industry officials say the decrease in production is due to sagging natural gas prices, a mild winter and stricter regulations on coal-burning power plants.


The Office of Natural Resources Revenue – or ONRR – saw a $1 billion increase in revenue from energy production on public lands. Wyoming’s share was more than $995 million – up from last year by more than $23 million.

With a growing quantity of coal being exported abroad, there’s some concern that companies are paying royalties using low, domestic rates for exports instead of the higher price sales abroad fetch to calculate their due share. ONRR spokesman Patrick Etchart says the agency audits companies, though not every year.

Coal industry roundtable brings optimism to industry

Dec 17, 2012

A coal industry roundtable discussion left some people feeling more optimistic about Wyoming coal industry than they had been before. During last Thursday’s meeting – called “Powder River Basin Coal: Domestic Challenges and International Opportunities” – presenters discussed everything from new regulations, to growing exports, and domestic issues. Tim Considine of UW’s Center for Energy Economics and Public Policy helped organize the event. He says he was surprised by some of what he heard.

Tim Considine is a professor at University of Wyoming and director of the Center for Energy Economics and Public Policy. He’s done research on petroleum markets and written about Powder River Basin Coal. He helped organize a roundtable discussion about coal called “Powder River Basin Coal: Domestic Challenges and International Opportunities,” which took place yesterday, in Gillette…He said the industry has been facing challenges like ongoing uncertainty in regulations, yet coal exports are at record levels.

The number of jobs Alpha Natural Resources plans to cut in Wyoming's Powder River Basin remains unclear after the coal giant said it plans to cut production by 16 million tons.
 
About 40 percent of Alpha's production cuts will come from high-cost eastern mines while about half will occur in the Powder River Basin. The company is eliminating 1,200 jobs companywide, laying off 400 workers immediately by closing mines in Virginia, West Virginia and Pennsylvania.
 
 But, the company says most of the displaced workers may eventually be rehired.
 

DKRW facility takes a big step forward

Aug 31, 2012
Bob Beck / Wyoming Public Media

A plan to build a coal to liquids plant in Medicine Bow took a major step forward.  D-K-R-W Advanced Fuels has entered into a contract with Sinopec Engineering Group to build the facility. 

D-K-R-W Executive Chairman Bob Kelly says he is now very optimistic that the project will become a reality.

“It’s a big step.  It enables us to know go to the international banking and equity community and lay out the project economics.  And our target is to finalize financing by the end of the year and the first quarter of 2013.  And once that’s done, you are going into construction. ”

Greg Goebel / Wikimedia Commons

While it would appear to some that improvement in natural gas prices will mean that the state won’t have the revenue crisis some predicted earlier this year, there is a new concern. 

The co-chairman of Wyoming’s Consensus Revenue Estimating Group says it surrounds coal and coal prices.  Bill Mai says it is something that members of the group are watching closely. 

Coal production in the Powder River Basin continues to decline for the second quarter in a row. Second-quarter financial results show that ARCH coal is down 22% from the second quarter of 2011, and Union Pacific, which transports coal from the Basin to utilities nationwide, shipped 18% less coal this quarter than the same time last year.

A federal district court judge in Washington, D.C. ruled against several conservation groups, who had challenged the BLM over new coal leases in the Powder River Basin.

The leases would let Cloud Peak Energy mine more than 400-million tons of coal. Shannon Anderson with the Powder River Basin Resource Council says her group opposes the plan because they feel coal companies haven’t been doing adequate reclamation of mines.

A Western Organization of Resource Councils report says an increase of Powder River Basin coal exports from Pacific ports to Asia could bring unconsidered problems. The environmental group’s report alleges that increased coal traffic would congest rail lines, bring coal dust, and force communities to front billions of dollars for infrastructure improvements.

Peabody Energy has been awarded a coal lease sale by the Bureau of Land Management for roughly $793-million. The tract is located in the Powder River Basin, and Peabody paid about a $1.10 per ton of coal, of which 721 million tons are estimated to be mineable.

Governor Matt Mead says the sale will be good for the state.

“It’s just short of 800 million dollars, which means over a course of about five years, Wyoming will get a little less than 400 million dollars from that sale,” says Mead.

  An attorney with the Wyoming Outdoor Council is disappointed that a number of states and industry officials are working hard to overturn the new Environmental Protection Agency standards dealing with air pollution from power plants. 

Bruce Pendry is reacting to reports that more than 130 coal companies, electric utilities, trade associations and states are suing the EPA in federal court to remove the health standards.

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