Experts expect steady Wyoming coal production

CASPER, WYOMING - The U.S. Department of Energy says consumption of electricity will likely decline next year but industry experts say they expect Wyoming's coal production will remain stable.

The DOE states that electrical consumption flattened this year and will likely decline slightly in 2009. The agency states that combined with a projected decline in U.S. coal exports and demand for coking, coal production is expected to drop 2.6 percent next year.

Nonetheless, Marion Loomis, executive director of the Wyoming Mining Association, said he expects coal production in Wyoming will remain stable while other coal-producing regions produce less.

"Wyoming would be last to be cut because the delivered price per million Btus (British thermal heating units) is as competitive, if not more competitive, as other coal fields," Loomis said.

The Energy Information Administration, part of the DOE, states that an increase in coal exports contributed to a 2.8-percent increase in U.S. coal production this year. Coal producers in the Powder River Basin expected to pick up some contracts in the eastern U.S. because more Eastern coal has been exported.

However, with demand for exports expected to decline, total U.S. coal production is expected to lose most of that 2.8 percent gain.

Loomis said the low cost of delivering Wyoming coal should help to keep demand for it strong, particularly during the national economic downturn.

"There might be a reduction in coking coal, and there might be a reduction in exports. But for electrical generation in the U.S., I would think coal production would be the last to be cut, just because it is least expensive and most reliable (fuel) for electricity," Loomis said.

The EIA's long-term outlook on coal predicts that U.S. coal production is expected to increase 39 percent from 2005 levels to 2030, with Western mines filling the bulk of the increase.


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