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Depletion of Appalachian coal reserves - how soon?

International Journal of Coal Geology

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DOI: 10.1016/S0166-5162(00)00013-6

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Abstract

Much of the coal consumed in the US since the end of the last century has been produced from the Pennsylvanian strata of the Appalachian basin. Even though quantities mined in the past are less than they are today, this basin yielded from 70% to 80% of the nation's annual coal production from the end of the last century until the early 1970s. During the last 25 years, the proportion of the nation's coal that was produced annually from the Appalachian basin has declined markedly, and today it is only about 40% of the total. The amount of coal produced annually in the Appalachian basin, however, has been rising slowly over the last several decades, and has ranged generally from 400 to 500 million tons (Mt) per year. A large proportion of Appalachian historical production has come from relatively few counties in southwestern Pennsylvania, northern and southern West Virginia, eastern Kentucky, Virginia and Alabama. Many of these counties are decades past their years of peak production and several are almost depleted of economic deposits of coal. Because the current major consumer of Appalachian coal is the electric power industry, coal quality, especially sulfur content, has a great impact on its marketability. High-sulfur coal deposits in western Pennsylvania and Ohio are in low demand when compared with the lower sulfur coals of Virginia and southern West Virginia. Only five counties in the basin that have produced 500 Mt or more exhibit increasing rates of production at relatively high levels. Of these, six are in the central part of the basin and only one, Greene County, Pennsylvania, is in the northern part of the basin. Decline rate models, based on production decline rates and the decline rate of the estimated, 'potential' reserve, indicate that Appalachian basin annual coal production will be 200 Mt or less by the middle of the next century. Published by Elsevier Science B.V.Much of the coal consumed in the US since the end of the last century has been produced from the Pennsylvanian strata of the Appalachian basin. Even though quantities mined in the past are less than they are today, this basin yielded from 70% to 80% of the nation's annual coal production from the end of the last century until the early 1970s. During the last 25 years, the proportion of the nation's coal that was produced annually from the Appalachian basin has declined markedly, and today it is only about 40% of the total. The amount of coal produced annually in the Appalachian basin, however, has been rising slowly over the last several decades, and has ranged generally from 400 to 500 million tons (Mt) per year. A large proportion of Appalachian historical production has come from relatively few counties in southwestern Pennsylvania, northern and southern West Virginia, eastern Kentucky, Virginia and Alabama. Many of these counties are decades past their years of peak production and several are almost depleted of economic deposits of coal. Because the current major consumer of Appalachian coal is the electric power industry, coal quality, especially sulfur content, has a great impact on its marketability. High-sulfur coal deposits in western Pennsylvania and Ohio are in low demand when compared with the lower sulfur coals of Virginia and southern West Virginia. Only five counties in the basin that have produced 500 Mt or more exhibit increasing rates of production at relatively high levels. Of these, six are in the central part of the basin and only one, Greene County, Pennsylvania, is in the northern part of the basin. Decline rate models, based on production decline rates and the decline rate of the estimated, `potential' reserve, indicate that Appalachian basin annual coal production will be 200 Mt or less by the middle of the next century.

Additional Publication Details

Publication type:
Article
Publication Subtype:
Journal Article
Title:
Depletion of Appalachian coal reserves - how soon?
Series title:
International Journal of Coal Geology
DOI:
10.1016/S0166-5162(00)00013-6
Volume
44
Issue:
3-4
Year Published:
2000
Language:
English
Publisher location:
Elsevier Science B.V.
Larger Work Type:
Article
Larger Work Subtype:
Journal Article
Larger Work Title:
International Journal of Coal Geology
First page:
251
Last page:
266