EIA reports what, in retrospect, were great 2011 coal figures

U.S. coal production in 2011 increased slightly from 2010, driven by export demand, to roughly 1.1 billion tons, said the U.S. Energy Information Administration in the 2011 version of its annual coal report, released Nov. 8.

The report is primarily a series of tables, with a short narrative executive summary. Notable is that early EIA figures for 2012 show that coal production has plunged this year due to factors like slumping power company demand, so these 2011 figures would be viewed with fond nostalgia by the coal industry. The EIA said that as of Nov. 3, year-to-date coal production is 861.2 million tons, down 6.2% from a level of 918.4 million tons in the same period in 2011.

Underground and surface production in 2011 increased 2.5% and 0.4%, respectively, from 2010. Also, the total number of mines in the U.S. increased 3.1% in 2011.

Regional production varied. Production in the Western U.S. (587.6 million tons) declined 0.7% from 2010. The region, which includes Wyoming, was affected by the decrease in coal-fired electricity generation and limited access to foreign markets, the report noted. Western production during 2011 was also affected by flooding in Montana.

Appalachian coal production (336.0 million tons) increased 0.2% from 2010. The increase was largely due to increased production and exports of bituminous coal from the region.

Coal production in the Interior region (170.3 million tons) increased 9.4% from 2010. Texas, Illinois, and Indiana increased production 12%, 13.6%, and 7.1%, respectively. While demand for coal from new power plants in Texas drove the state’s production in 2011, export demand led to production increases in the latter two states, the EIA noted.

In 2011, productive capacity of coal mines increased by 2.5 million tons to 1.3 billion tons. Capacity utilization increased 2.83% to 79.3% at underground mines, while utilization at surface mines (83.3%) remained similar to the 2010 level.

The top three U.S. coal mines in terms of production in 2011 were all Powder River Basin strip jobs in Wyoming: Peabody Energy‘s (NYSE: BTU) North Antelope Rochelle mine (109.1 million tons); Arch Coal‘s Black Thunder mine (105 million tons); and Cloud Peak Energy‘s (NYSE: CLD) Cordero operation (39.5 million tons).

The top underground mines in 2011 were all CONSOL Energy (NYSE: CNX) twin-longwall mines in the Pittsburgh coal seam in Northern Appalachia: Bailey (10.8 million tons), Enlow Fork (10.2 million tons); and McElroy (9.3 million tons).

The top three coal producers in 2011 were: Peabody Energy (202.2 million tons); Arch Coal (160.3 million tons); and Alpha Natural Resources (NYSE: ANR) (116.4 million tons.

In 2011, domestic consumption of metallurgical coal by the coking industry rose 1.6% to 21.4 million tons. In contrast, consumption of steam coal by the electric power, industrial, and commercial and institutional sectors decreased 4.4%, 6.2%, and 9.3%, respectively. Mild winter weather led to a decline in total electricity generation, leaving high stock levels. Natural gas prices also declined during 2011, allowing facilities that can use both coal and natural gas to alternate between fuels and companies that have portfolios of coal and natural gas plants to utilize their gas plants more.

The average sales price of coal in 2011 increased 15.2% to $41.01/ton. However, the change in average sales price of coal from underground mines was greater (16%) than the change in average sales price of coal from surface mines (11.9%).

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.