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Report: U.S. coal production declined in 2018 as prices, exports rose

Stephen Huba
685732Coal

U.S. coal production continued its downward trend in 2018, even as coal prices rose in three of the five major coal-producing regions, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said.

The federal agency estimated that U.S. coal production in 2018 totalled 755 million short tons — 20 million short tons less than in 2017 and 36 percent less than in the previous decade.

Although U.S. coal exports increased by about 10 million short tons in 2018, volumes were not great enough to offset the decline in coal consumption, resulting in declining coal production, the EIA said.

Of the five major coal-producing basins, only two saw increased production in 2018 — Central Appalachian and Illinois. The Rocky Mountain Basin (Colorado and Utah) experienced the largest decline as a share of production — 12 percent (6 million short tons) lower than in 2017. The Powder River (Wyoming and Montana) and Northern Appalachian basins also declined by 3 percent and 2 percent respectively.

The Northern Appalachian Basin includes Western Pennsylvania.

The EIA estimated that total coal consumption in the United States was 692 million short tons in 2018, falling to the lowest level in 39 years. More than 90 percent of domestic coal consumption is in the power sector, and nearly 15 gigawatts of coal-fired generation capacity were retired in 2018, contributing to the decline in coal consumption.

Stephen Huba is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Stephen at 724-850-1280, [email protected] or via Twitter @shuba_trib.