While coal producers look to international markets to make up for a soft coal market at home, experts advise that Asian coal demand will not be as strong as had been expected.
During a recent teleconference, researchers and environmentalists discussed the financial viability of building coal export terminals in the Northwest US to ship Powder River basin coal to Asia. Ross Macfarlane works for Climate Solutions, a clean-energy advocacy group. He said domestic producers didn’t account for the evolution of the coal market abroad.
Today’s coal lease sale of nearly 150 million tons of mineable coal in the Powder River Basin received zero bids.
It’s the first time the Wyoming office of the Bureau of Land Management has received no bids for a sale. Cordero Mining, a subsidiary of Cloud Peak Energy, asked BLM to open the tract in 2006. It's adjacent to an operating Cloud Peak mine.
But Cloud Peak CEO Colin Marshall says things have changed since then. In a press release, he cited current coal market conditions and regulatory uncertainty as factors in the company's decision not to bid.
Last year, we reported on a new project to restore sage grouse habitat that’s been disturbed by energy development in the Powder River Basin. The Bureau of Land Management, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and other agencies are participating in the effort.
A new US Geological Survey study says that only a small percentage of coal in the Powder River Basin is cost-effective to mine in the current market. According to the USGS, there are more than one trillion tons of coal present in the Basin, of which 162 billion tons could technically be recovered. Of that, it would only be economically viable to mine about 25 billion tons in today’s market.
Project Chief for the US Coal Assessment Program, Jim Luppens, says new geologic data made the study possible.
With the start of the legislative session Tuesday, lawmakers have begun to lay out ideas for state income opportunities and budget priorities. With a slow-down in energy revenue predicted for the next decade, House Speaker, Thomas Lubnau, says Wyoming should look for new opportunities abroad.
A coal industry roundtable discussion left some people feeling more optimistic about Wyoming coal industry than they had been before. During last Thursday’s meeting – called “Powder River Basin Coal: Domestic Challenges and International Opportunities” – presenters discussed everything from new regulations, to growing exports, and domestic issues. Tim Considine of UW’s Center for Energy Economics and Public Policy helped organize the event. He says he was surprised by some of what he heard.
This year’s U.S. coal shipments went up about 24% from 2011 export numbers – and that’s only as of October. Exports still make up a relatively small percentage of total production, but with domestic use going down and world-wide demand going up, coal producers in places like Wyoming are looking to foreign markets to keep sales steady. For now, though, ports capable of handling truly large coal shipments are just in the planning stages. And Center for Energy Economics and Public Policy director, Tim Considine, says foreign sales won’t solve all of the industry’s problems.
A federal district court judge in Washington, D.C. ruled against several conservation groups, who had challenged the BLM over new coal leases in the Powder River Basin.
The leases would let Cloud Peak Energy mine more than 400-million tons of coal. Shannon Anderson with the Powder River Basin Resource Council says her group opposes the plan because they feel coal companies haven’t been doing adequate reclamation of mines.
The Sierra Club and Wild Earth Guardians are suing the federal government over planned coal leases in the Powder River Basin.
The BLM has approved the sale of four new coal leases in the area, which could produce up to two billion tons of coal. The Sierra Club’s Connie Wilbert says her group worries about the greenhouse gas emissions that could result from the additional mining and subsequent use of the coal.
A new report by researchers at the University of Montana warns that unless energy development slows down, sage grouse populations in the Powder River Basin could die out. The study, which was commissioned by the BLM, was meant to determine whether the sage grouse population there can survive, given current oil and gas drilling activities, and what would happen to the birds if more drilling occurred or if there were new West Nile Virus outbreaks. Wyoming Public Radio’s Willow Belden spoke with Dave Naugle, who co-authored the report. He says the sage grouse population in the Powder River Basin has already declined by 82 percent as a result of energy development.
A new report commissioned by the BLM warns that unless energy development in the Powder River Basin slows down, sage grouse populations there could die out.
Dave Naugle of the University of Montana co-authored the report. He says the sage grouse population in the Powder River Basin has already declined by 82 percent as a result of oil and gas drilling, and he says a disease outbreak similar to recent West Nile Virus occurrences could mean that fewer than 100 males would be left. That, Naugle says, “would functionally mean that that population could go extinct. ”