Coal electric power sector shipments declining

Published on September 17, 2019 by Douglas Clark

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Energy Information Administration (EIA) power sector surveys determined the 600 million short tons (MMst) of coal shipped to the electric power sector in 2018 represented the lowest level since 1983.

The analysis showed more than 75 percent of the coal delivered to the power sector in 2018 was shipped either completely or in part by rail while the remainder was shipped by river barge, truck, and other methods.

Factors such as plant location and access to the rail system play a role in determining the primary manner in which power plants receive its coal, per the report, noting river barge is often the most cost-effective method of transporting large quantities of coal over long distances, but the option is limited to plants located on suitable rivers.

Coal shipments to the electric power sector in 2018 were 7 percent lower than the previous year and of all modes, shipments to minemouth plants, power plants built close to coal mines, declined more substantially than other transport modes, falling by 15 percent. Rail shipments decreased by 6 percent.

The report showed the average transportation cost of coal was $16.07 per ton, which is down from $16.28 per ton in 2017 while transportation accounts for about 41 percent of the total delivered cost of coal.

The proportion has increased steadily since 2008 when transportation accounted for about one-third of the total delivered cost of coal.