Counting on coal

Here’s a look at some key numbers for coal, the largest power source for electricity generation in the U.S.:

The barge industry carries 20 percent of the nation’s coal, enough to produce 10 percent of all U.S. electricity used annually. Total U.S. coal production is expected to be 1,017 million short tons (MMst) in 2013, about the same as in 2012, and grow to 1,050 in 2014. That’s down from 1,095.6 in 2011. 

Petroleum and petroleum products account for the largest portion — 31 percent — of the 722 million tons of cargo shipped by barge annually on inland and coastal waters, followed by coal at 27 percent. 

Total domestic waterborne commerce has dropped from 1.1 billion short tons in 1992 to 888 million in 2011*. Coal has gone from 223.5 million tons to 213.3 million over the same period.

Coal and coke on the inland waterways, which carry 90 percent of coal moved by barge, fell from 82.3 MMst the first six months of 2012 to 76.5 MMst for the same period this year.

Coal exports are expected to drop from 126 MMst in 2012 to 112 MMst in 2013 despite record exports of 13.6 MMst in March. Exports are projected to drop further to 108 MMst in 2014, primarily due to economic weakness in Europe (the largest regional importer of U.S. coal), slowing Asian demand growth, increasing supply in other coal-exporting countries and falling international coal prices.

 The government’s Annual Energy Outlook 2012 projects 49 gigawatts of coal-fired capacity will be retired through 2020 — about one-sixth of the existing coal capacity in the U.S. Most will be in the mid-Atlantic, Ohio River Valley and southeastern U.S. — D.K. DuPont 


*Latest annual report available 

Source: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; U.S. Energy Information Administration; American Waterways Operators 

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