Coal Age

FEB 2012

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transport tips Alabama Coal Transportation—A System in Change BY DAVID GAMBREL For many years Alabama has appeared to the outside world (everywhere not within the Alabama borders) as a self-contained idealis- tic economy. Its steel industry and power plants were furnished coal by its own nearby coal mines, and the coal was hauled from Alabama mines to the plants by a small group of barge and railroad companies. This eco- nomic Eden began to change rather slowly in the early 1990s, when Peabody Coal found it necessary to blend Colombian coal with Galatia coal at McDuffie Terminal to meet environmental requirements for its coal cus- tomer Gulf Power. No one would have guessed it then, but this was to be the crack in the door that would lead to more drastic changes in the following years. In a sense Alabama has become a microcosm of sys- temic changes occurring all across the United States. Alabama Power has a coal-fired power plant on each of four major waterways in the state: the Green County plant is locat- Name Black Warrior Alabama Power, Greene Co. Plant Powell Sales Jim Walter Resources Kellerman Dock (Drummond Drummond Big Soal Creek Dock Locust Fork Port Birmingham Liberty Stevedoring Liberty Stevedoring Birmingham Marine Terminal Alabama Power, Miller Plant Mobile River Alabama Power, Barry Plant Mulberry Fork Alabama Power, Gorgas Plant Alabama State Docks Tennessee River Port of Guntersville Bulk Dock ACT Port of Gunterstille Dump TVA Colbert Plant Monsanto Coal Dock TVA Widows Creek Tombigbee River River City Industries Alabama Electric Coopertive Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway Pickens County Port 20 0.5 L 0.6 L Black Eagle Minerals Pride Transloader 247.5 L Port of Florence 245.3 L 256.6 R 302.0 L 407.2 R 214.8 89.5 R 308 Guntersville Guntersville Pride Pride Florence Decatur Stevenson Demopolis Leroy Pickensville CSX None None NS CSX NS CSX none NS None 10' 12' 15' 22' 16' 12' 10' 12' 10' 240' 195' 4,130' 1,250' 500' 1,160' 1,650' 600' 780' ? ? 800,000 300,000 ? 50,000 1,000,000 14 acres 500,000 Receipt/shipment of coal Receipt/shipment of coal Receipt of coal for plant Receipt of coal Shipment of coal Receipt of coal for plant Receipt of coal for plant Receipt of coal Recept of coal for plant Shipment of coal Owned by Parker Towing. February 2012 30.5 R 397.8 R 416.5 R Bucks Gorgas Cordova None Captive to mine BSNF 13' 12' 9'-12' 2,000' 420' 200' 1,300,000 1,000,000 150,000 Receipt of coal for plant Shipmwnt of coal Shipment of coal Takes import coal. Company mine. No longer handles coal, general cargo only. 227.7 R 338.5 L 534.0 L 355.0 L 372.0 R Forkland Tuscaloosa Brookwood Brookwood Oak Grove 397.4 L Port Birmingham Terminal 398.6 R Port Birmingham 398.8 R Port Birmingham 399.2 R Port Birmingham 405.6 L Porter BNSF None None None None Birmingham None None None CSXT, BNSF 10'-12' 9' 10' 10' 10'-12' 10' 15' 15' 10' 14' 2,600' 200' 200' 200' 680' 800' 400' 400' 188' 1,800' 1,000,000 40,000 20,000 500,000 200,000 200,000 50,000 150,000 15,000 600,000 Receipt of Coal for plant Shipment of coal Shipment of coal Shipment of coal Shipment of coal Shipment of coal Shipment of coal Shipment of coal Shipment of coal Receipt of coal for plant Exports met coal. Exports met coal. Owned by Watco. Inactive. Inactive. Owned by Parker Towing. Strictly takes PRB coal now. No longer have dock. Mile ed on the Black Warrior River, the Miller plant is located on Locust Fork, the Barry plant is located on the Mobile River, and the Gorgas plant is located on Mulberry Fork. Alabama Electric Cooperative owns the Lowman plant on the Tombigbee River. With the exception of Gorgas, which is connected to its own mine, all were orig- inally equipped with their own coal termi- nal to receive coal from nearby Alabama mines. Under constant environmental pressure many of the original coal trans- portation systems have experienced obso- lescence or radical change. The Miller plant no longer takes barge coal from Alabama mines; in fact it no longer has a barge dock. It strictly takes rail coal from the Powder River Basin (PRB). The Barry plant takes imported coal from Colombia, which is transferred from ship to barge at McDuffie Terminal, then delivered by barge to the plant. One cannot predict when or if the Barry plant will ever return to Railway locally-produced coal, but it seems reason- ably certain that the Miller plant will not abandon its expensive capital commitment to PRB coal. Other factors have produced temporary or even permanent change in the transporta- tion and coal production system. Barge deliv- eries of coal have been markedly curtailed as natural gas prices have been so low that utili- ties have purchased gas instead of coal. Fortunately much of the lost utility coal busi- ness has been replaced by barge shipments of export coal to McDuffie Terminal. The pri- mary stimulus for this was the 2011 torrential rains in the coking coal production region of Australia, so it is difficult to predict how long the spot coal demand for Alabama coal will last. Coal imports at McDuffie Terminal have been sharply reduced by the effect of lower gas prices. Whereas McDuffie recently imported about 12 million tons per year, it now expects imports in 2012 to be about 3 million tons. Figure 1: Coal Terminals on the Inland Waterways of Alabama Town Depth Berth Storage Capacity, Short Tons Purpose Notes

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