US Coal Production Crashes To Record Low

Here's another chart that it's probably best not to show President Trump...

Having promised to 'make coal great again' and tweeted exuberantly about the reopening of mines in June...

President Trump's coal nation is facing a tough end to the year as U.S. coal production sank to an all-time low in the final week of 2017 as the Christmas holiday and bitter-cold temperatures added to the long-term trends pummeling the industry.

Miners extracted an estimated 10.5 million short tons of coal during the week ending Dec. 30, according to a report Thursday from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

That was down 28 percent from the same week in 2016 and the lowest tally in records dating to 1992.

As Bloomberg notes, weekly coal production generally falls at the end of the year as rail and mining crews take time off, said Matt Preston, a North American coal analyst at Wood Mackenzie Ltd. But the drop-off was sharper than ever in 2017 as the industry continued to struggle to compete with natural gas and, to a lesser extent, wind and solar farms.


HominyTwin Zer0head Sat, 01/06/2018 - 21:24 Permalink

Ummm, somewhat. The coal industry has been bankrupted by the North American shale industry. The overproduction of natural gas has made coal uncompetitive. The shale industry is the real culprit: it's obviously a ponzi scheme enabled by the cheap money policies of the fed. Coal is more sustainable in the economic sense of the word. But after the coal companies are bankrupt, then the shale companies will go bankrupt and it will be a cold continent after that.

In reply to by Zer0head

PrintCash HominyTwin Sat, 01/06/2018 - 21:35 Permalink

For Christ’s sake, when the government comes in and actually says they are going to bankrupt an industry, the government is totally off the hook when that happens?  How the hell, if coal isn’t competitive (given entire parts of the country have easily accessed coal, in place and paid for means of transportation and generation) can they ship coal halfway across the country (past my house) put it on ships, ship it halfway across the world, and that is still economical?  I can tell you why, government over reach.  And for what?  The idea that government can control the earth’s thermostat, but not their own fucking budget, is pathetic.

In reply to by HominyTwin

Twee Surgeon TBT or not TBT Sun, 01/07/2018 - 01:48 Permalink

It will take them years to pump the water out of many of the mines and get them back to operable condition if they can find the Guys with the right know how who even want to get back in that game. Surface deposits are probably quite rare in comparison, but never popular with the locals. I't wont be as easy as just opening the front gates and getting busy.

In reply to by TBT or not TBT

PrintCash Bes Sat, 01/06/2018 - 21:51 Permalink

Actually, yeah now we liquify it and shove it through sprinkler systems to feed crops.  If there is meat in the store, you can bet the shit gets shoveled.  It’s just that city boys like you, with not a single understanding of how the world goes ‘round don’t see it, so for all intents and purposes it doesn’t exist.  Btw, do you heat your house with Bitcoin?

In reply to by Bes

A Sentinel JimmyJones Sat, 01/06/2018 - 23:04 Permalink

The massive coal fired plants produce the baseline. You can’t store electricity. It’s got to be produced as it’s used. The biggest coal plants take 1-2 DAYS to to fire up. 

Dancing around these are the renewables (and they have complex advantages artificially imposed by the government) and at the other end are small gas fired plants that take, say, 30 minutes to fire up/down.

The issue of production is further integrated with transmission. Then issues like congestion start to matter.

its a complex market, highly regulated both internally and externally, but the role of coal is not disposable.

In reply to by JimmyJones

HockeyFool A Sentinel Sun, 01/07/2018 - 05:56 Permalink

Great comment except for the gas plant start up time. It takes a lot longer than 30 minutes to fire up a plant that is shutdown. Closer to a couple or 3 shifts. (I spent 15 years in the power distribution side of the electric industry)

Renewables are only around because tax payers subsidize their use. They are neither economical nor reliable.

In reply to by A Sentinel

Doctor Faustus HockeyFool Sun, 01/07/2018 - 08:36 Permalink

And I've spent 32 years on the power generation side of the electric industry and am still working. There's a lot of variables when it comes to start-up. Some plants maintain low-power status and can start up well within that 30 minute time frame. Others must power up from a cold-start and, yes, it takes a day or so for the steam quality to meet spec before sending it to the turbines. This, of course, is for combined-cycle plants, i.e. plants that use steam generators to turn turbines. Simple-cycle power plants (basically a jet engine on the ground) power up immediately and generate electricity immediately. Unfortunately, the waste heat is lost when it could be used to heat up water to make steam.

Our energy policy is based on politics rather than economics. If we were to ever reverse that trend, reliable, inexpensive power utilizing the natural resources we currently have would free up money people use for energy to spend on other things.


In reply to by HockeyFool

F em all but 6 HockeyFool Sun, 01/07/2018 - 08:48 Permalink

"Renewables are only around because tax payers subsidize their use".

Only partially true. I put up a 20k Jacobs wind gen in 1996. With geothermal electric heat and A/C utilizing net metering I have NO heat/cooling bill and no electric bill. (3200 sf log home) Actually, my last statement from Dakota Electric shows a $178 credit. And its not exactly warm in Minnesota. So yes, the generation equipment was exempt from sales tax. But at the time of installation that was it. No federal tax credits involved. The initial investment has long been paid for. Maintenance is not difficult and reasonably inexpensive. Renewables can work and have great potential to take an enormous bite out of the need for external fuel sources.

Wind, solar electric, solar hot water, ect. are good investments whether or not government subsidies exist. Hell, tax credits are the means to claw back what the government confiscated before you got your paycheck anyway. I say invest regardless. If you play your cards right, it will pay off. Utility costs are going up every year without fail. And so your investment break even point accelerates along with it.

In reply to by HockeyFool

Canadian Dirtlump HominyTwin Sun, 01/07/2018 - 04:01 Permalink

My original comment crashed thanks to the new Zerohedge cyber AIDS. But anyways. Blaming natural gas is also deceptive.


Firstly there was a concerted effort to shit on coal, which to this second, artificially skews the stats. Secondly, It's been comparatively recent thanks to technological innovation that natgas could compete with coal economically.  The infrastructure build out says this can't happen overnight.


Speaking of economics. When I started in the oil and gas industry 15 years ago ( in alberta ) in the pipeline industry, all my company did focused on either natgas tie ins, or natgas facilities. Coalbed methane they call it. Now? There's next to no gas production in the Canadian prairies, despite it being ubiquitous. All we do is oil now. For the most part gas production is shut in and new drilling isn't economically viable. If North America was so inclined we could use natural gas to power every power plant, run every car, light every smoke, cook every box of KD.


However, between our lack of export infrastructure and the lack of demand in north America, gas prices domestically have been shit on toast for years. You mention the shale plays. I'll put 5 days wages on the idea that the gas production you are talking about involves WET gas. This is to say that In addition to recovering usable natural gas, these horizontal wells yield petroleum distillates / condensates which are valuable.


In other words, horizontal gas wells, which are the ones in the "shale plays," which are expensive as hell to drill and have a comparatively short useful life compared to conventional wells, would most likely not be drilled if they didn't yield condensates which either help or primarily provide the economic return on the project. I have no opinion on the US shale Ponzi scheme BTW.


This being said, domestically in North America, especially given the infrastructure in place, Coal ( wherever it is from, I understand we have some bomb ass low sulfur coal in Alberta ) power generation remains a clean and cheap option and generally has only been hampered by quasi religious edicts from pinko governments ( forget Obama, hello Alberta NDP ).


If all coal power had to worry about was natgas then it would be fine, but we have been baptized into the cult of global warming where economics have given way to dogma resulting in a proliferation of mongoloid windmills which specialize in mincing birds, to solar farms which specialize in baking whatever crosses their paths. Without the pink pleather jackboot of pinkoistic pathology, coal would be king and natgas would be like a baron.

In reply to by HominyTwin

Doctor Faustus Canadian Dirtlump Sun, 01/07/2018 - 08:43 Permalink

Yup. TransAlta's coal plants (Sundance, Wabaman & Keephills plants) are being marginalized due to politics. They built the plants next to the open-mining coal fields (you can see the huge excavators for miles) and next to lakes for the steam condensers. 

Beautiful country and I always enjoy visiting the plants while staying in the town of Stony Plain. 

In reply to by Canadian Dirtlump

Muddy1 HominyTwin Sun, 01/07/2018 - 09:32 Permalink

Not so fast there Hominy.  Coal is cheaper and more cost effective than converting power plants to natural gas.  Conversions have stopped and plants are staying with coal because it is more cost effective, and the dumb ass Obama's "clean air regulations" have been stopped.

This article may have correct production figures for the US as a whole, but I can tell you that the demand for coal from the mine my adult child works at in the western US is huge.  Mandatory overtime trying to produce to meet demands, virtually unlimited overtime if a miner wants it.  Perhaps it is the quality of the coal in this mine that has created the demand, but the coal is rolling out, trainload after trainload.

In reply to by HominyTwin

east of eden Zer0head Sat, 01/06/2018 - 21:59 Permalink

Well, hold on a minute. A lot of the frigid weather is due to a very weakened Atlantic conveyer pump just south of Greenland. As fresh water from the melting Greenland ice cap moved into the conveyor area, the fresh water displaced the salt water and everything turned ass over tea kettle. Whatever you want to call it, the rapid and severe changes in climate have certainly become global.

In reply to by Zer0head

jmack Zer0head Sun, 01/07/2018 - 04:16 Permalink

   I thought it was climate change.... which is it really global warming or climate change?    I also thought that weather was not climate...   I also thought that the hurricanes were proof we werent doing enough to combat global warming, as you call it.  


   So many narratives, I realize it is hard to keep them straight.


Hmm, is it Obama's coal policies or is it the fact that we are in the weakest solar cycle in 100 years?   Who IS the crazy one?…

In reply to by Zer0head

AGuy asteroids Sun, 01/07/2018 - 01:14 Permalink

"Blame Obama."
Not really in this case. You can blame Obozo for Obozocare, doubling the debt & deficit. The decline on Coal production is driven by:

1. Dirt Cheap natgas. Its cheaper to run a Natgas Power plant than Coal.
2. Lack of skilled workers to mantain aging coal plants. As older workers retire, they are not getting replaced. Its easily to just build a mordern NatGas Plant that does not require the amount of hands on of a older coal plant.

In reply to by asteroids

HockeyFool AGuy Sun, 01/07/2018 - 06:06 Permalink

Wrong on #2. They are just steam boilers basically. And there are plenty of journeymen that know boilers.

Electric plants turn water into steam to turn the turbine. The heat source that boils the water is what is different.

A good journeyman can work on nukes, gas burners, or coal burners. The site SOPs dictate how everything works, including maintenance. They aren't that different other than the heat source and the differing associated safety risks.


In reply to by AGuy

LetThemEatRand Sat, 01/06/2018 - 21:08 Permalink

Trump has proven himself to be another banker controlled puppet, but no way could he turn around the coal industry in a year even if he wanted to (which is questionable given his other false promises).