Posts Tagged ‘Coal mining’

Coal Uptick Seen Lasting Into 2022

January 26, 2022

The uptick in the use of coal by electric generating plants that occurred this year is expected to continue into 2022, Trains magazine reported on its website.

The magazine noted that the U.S. Energy Information Administration expects coal production this year to rise by 6 percent to 612 million short tons. That is an increase of 33 million short tons over 2021.

Industry observers have attributed the increased use of coal to rising natural gas prices and supply chain shortages of gas.

One challenge power plants face, though, is fewer coal suppliers due to decreases in mining capacity.

The coal mining industry has been going through a transformation that has included mergers, sales of properties, and financial difficulties triggered by the decline of the use of coal.

The Trains analysis concluded that coal companies are more likely to increase production at existing mines than to reopen closed facilities to meet the increased demand.

This is expected to result in a nominal increase in the number of coal trains and Trains said no specific railroad or power plant is expected to benefit exclusively although most of the added production is expected to originate in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming.

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Coal Firm Served by NS, CSX Files for Bankruptcy

June 27, 2019

A Kentucky coal operator whose mines in the eastern region of the state are served by CSX and Norfolk Southern has filed for bankruptcy protection in what is viewed as a step toward the sale of the company.

Cambrian Holding Company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in U.S. District Court in Lexington, Kentucky, and subsequently issued a statement saying that is “will explore a sale process under court supervision.”

The company is based in Belcher, Kentucky. The bankruptcy filing said Cambrian has nearly $21 million. S&P Global said Cambrian lists assets of $10 million and $50 million, and liabilities between $100 million and half a billion dollars.

Cambrian President Mark Campbell attributed the bankruptcy to falling coal prices and financial complications following its purchase of Teco Energy.

In a statement, Campbell said Cambrian’s mines will continue to operate.

FERC Rejects Coal Plant Saving Plan

January 10, 2018

In a setback for an Ohio utility company and the coal company that supplies its generating plants with fuel, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission unanimously rejected an effort by Energy Secretary Rick Perry to prop up beleaguered coal and nuclear power plants.

Perry had asked FERC to guarantee financial payments to power generating plants that face closure due to competition from natural gas and renewable energy.

The proposed “grid resiliency pricing rule” would have covered the costs of power plants that keep on hand a 90-day fuel supply.

FERC Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur spurned Perry’s effort to support the policy because the nation’s electric grid is in danger.

She said Perry failed to produce evidence to prove that point and said he was actually trying to freeze resources of yesterday into place indefinitely.

“I believe the Commission should continue to focus its efforts not on slowing the transition from the past but on easing the transition to the future,” she wrote.

Akron-based FirstEnergy Corporation and Murray Energy based in St. Clairsville, a coal mining company, had heavily supported Perry’s proposal.

Critics of the Perry plan had argued that it would undermine the power markets that regulators have spent decades building.

FERC did order the nation’s regional grid operators to submit information within 60 days about their ability to judge “naturally occurring and man-made threats.”

Energy industry observers had said that had the rule been implemented it would have had its greatest effect in the PJM power grid that stretches over 13 states between the Midwest and East Coast.

FirstEnergy warned in a statement that “without timely action, more of these facilities will close prematurely, jeopardizing the ability to provide clean, reliable and affordable power to customers while harming economies across the region.”

A Wall Street Journal article about the FERC vote said there is a widespread belief that another round of coal-powered generating plant closures are coming, which would not be good news for railroads.

Last November, FERC had projected that 20.6 gigawatts of coal-fired electric generating capacity will be retired by 2020 with less than 2 gw of coal-producing electricity coming online to replace it.

By contrast, more than 92 gw of natural gas produced electricity will come online with just 11 gw of gas-fired electric generating capacity retired.

At present, natural gas generates 40 percent of the nation’s electricity while coal accounts for 23 percent. Nuclear and renewable energy provide 9 percent apiece of the generating capacity.

A Department of Energy study ordered by Perry early in his tenure at the urging of Murray Energy and released last August concluded that less expensive and abundant natural gas is the primary driver of changes in the U.S. electric generating industry.

Murray had urged Perry to use DOE’s emergency power to order the firm’s coal customers to keep running. Perry had sought to frame as a national security issue the proposed rule that FERC rejected.

When asked at a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing last October if the proposed rule would cost consumers several billion dollars a year, he responded, “What’s the cost of freedom? What does it cost to build a system to keep America free?”

Perry argued that the power grid’s vulnerabilities posed a threat to national security.

In a September letter to FERC calling for it to act quickly, Perry asserted that “the resiliency of the electric grid is threatened by the premature retirements of these fuel-secure traditional baseload resources.”

In its decision, FERC said the feedback it received from grid operators on the Perry proposal “do not point to any past or planned generator retirements that may be a threat to grid resilience.”

In Search of Keystone State Steam: Part 2

November 3, 2016


Second of a series.

Eastern Pennsylvania is known for its anthracite coal. Often called hard coal, anthracite is known for its sub-metallic luster, high carbon content, lack of impurities, and having the highest calorific content of all types of coal except graphite.

The mining of anthracite in Pennsylvania is not what it used to be, but it is still mined and there remains a relatively stable market for it.

In Ashland, Pennsylvania, the Pioneer Tunnel Coal mine takes visitors inside a horizontal drift mine that extend 1,800 feet into the side of the Mahanoy Mountain.

Today passengers can ride on a three-quarter mile ride around Mahanoy Mountain behind the Henry Clay, an 0-4-0 tank engine that was built in 1927 by the Vulcan Works.

A highlight of that trip is viewing the remains of the strip mines, but the journey ends at the Pioneer Tunnel, which is open to visitors.

Photographs by Edward Ribinskas




Another W.Va. Coal Mine Shutting Down

October 28, 2015

Coal mining operations in West Virginia continue to shrink with the Carter Roag Coal Company mines set to close on Christmas Day. The mines near Mill Creek are served by the Beech Mountain Railroad.

The coal company blamed a week market for coal as well as unspecified mine performance factors. Coal mined at Carter Roag is exported to the Ukraine.

Carer Roag is the only customer for the Beech Mountain, which uses Alco locomotives to shuttle trains between the mines and an interchange with the Appalachian & Ohio in Alexander. The coal is turned over to CSX in Grafton.

“We’re stating our intent to shut down within 60 days. We reserve the right to rescind that, but that will be dependent on market conditions and performance of the mine, said Mark McCormick, general counsel and vice president of United Coal Company in a statement.

The pending closure will affect more than 170 workers. Traffic on the A&O is also expected to fall, although it continues to serve two customers.

Following the Coal Mine Railroad Operations of Southwest Pennsylvania

May 16, 2012

The Cumberland Mine Railroad shuttles coal hoppers between a mine and a barge loading facility.It does not connect with any other railroads. (Photograph by Todd Dillon)

On a recent Saturday, Todd Dillon spent the day checking out two railroad mining operations in southwestern Pennsylvania. One involved CSX and the other a 17-mile short line you may never of heard of: The Cumberland Mine Railroad. To read Todd’s story and view a gallery of photographs, click on the link below.