Why is a coal dragline like the space shuttle? Answer below

Peabody Energy‘s (NYSE: BTU) 8 million pound dragline completed a historic journey from the company’s Lee Ranch strip mine northwest of Grants, N.M., more than 20 miles to its new home at Peabody’s newer El Segundo mine.

One of the world’s most massive machines, the 1570-W dragline crossed the high desert, carried by a specialized 600-wheel vehicle. NASA uses a similar transportation method to haul space shuttles, Peabody noted in a Nov. 27 statement. Generally speaking, the bigger the dragline, the more cost-efficient a mining operation is. 

Transporting a machine of this size required precision and planning, said Brad Brown, Peabody Energy Senior Vice President of Southwest Operations. “This was certainly a road trip to remember. These machines are the size of a ship on dry land. They can walk but typically very slowly with the help of electric generators. This time, Peabody used a different, more efficient method involving a carrier.”

A dragline is a large earthmoving machine designed to remove overburden (rock and soil) to reveal a coal seam. The 1570-W dragline carries an 85-cubic-yard bucket and a 320-foot boom. Draglines traditionally move to new areas by “walking” about one-tenth of a mile in an hour using shoes that lift and advance the machine. This requires generators, and road and power line construction support 24 hours a day for a month or more.

Peabody adopted a new dragline transportation method that abbreviated the move and eliminated the need for electric power. Working with heavy equipment manufacturer Joy Global, Peabody loaded the massive machine on a specialized carrier assembled by Mammoet USA South Inc., the world’s leader in solutions for heavy lifting transportation.

One of the most productive mines in the U.S. Southwest, El Segundo shipped 8.4 million tons of coal in 2012.

Peabody Energy is the world’s largest private-sector coal company and a major producer of coal in the western U.S., including in Arizona (one mine) and New Mexico (two mines).

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.