US coal producers break another production record

The National Mining Association’s (NMA) recently published 2006 Coal Producers Survey documents the nearly 3% jump in coal production seen in 2006 that bettered the record level set in 2005. Looking forward, the survey found coal producers believe production in 2007 will either equal or better the 2006 mark.

According to the survey, which examined preliminary data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA), coal production in 2006 stood at 1.053 Mt, an increase of 27.1 Mt, or 2.6%, over the 2005 record production figure.

According to EIA information analyzed in the survey, coal produced east of the Mississippi River accounted for 42.1%, or 444 Mt, of total 2006 production, marking a drop of 0.9% from 2005. However, Indiana, Kentucky, Virginia and Illinois all experienced production increases in 2006.

Production in the West came in at 671.9 million tons, accounting for 609.4 Mt or 57.9% of 2006 production. Western coal production jumped 5.4% in 2006, with Montana, North Dakota, Utah and Wyoming all experiencing production increases. For 2007, coal producers believe Western coal production, primarily from the Powder River Basin, will continue to increase.

Of the 43 companies surveyed, 46% reported that they expect 2007 US coal production to be at the same level as last year, while 26% expect another record year and 9% expect production to dip in 2007.

In 2006, Peabody Energy was the largest American coal producer, with output of 195.2 Mt, representing 18.5% of total US coal production. According to the survey, the three largest underground coal mines by production belonged to Consol Energy. Consol’s Enlow Fork mine in Pennsylvania ranked first with 9.7 Mt of production, followed by Consol’s McElroy mine in West Virginia, with 9.5 Mt and Consol’s Bailey mine in Pennsylvania with 9.25 Mt.

In surface coal mining, Arch Coal’s Black Thunder mine, with 83.9 Mt of production (higher than most coal producing nations’ total output), was the largest in 2006, followed by Peabody’s North Antelope/Rochelle mine, which produced 80.3 Mt. Rio Tinto Energy’s Jacobs Ranch was the third largest surface coal mine with 36.3 Mt of production last year.

The largest multi-mine production complex was Galatia with 6.5 Mt, owned by Murray Energy’s American Coal Co. CAM Mining and Sidney Coal Co ranked second and third with 5.9 Mt and 4.8 Mt respectively.

Elsewhere, the survey noted a considerable improvement in rail transportation capacity in 2006, as the completion of a number of capacity expansions helped alleviate bottlenecks and shipping delays that had impacted production in 2005.

(All production figures in metric tons)