Coal Age

OCT 2015

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The U.S. operates the largest fleet of coal preparation plants. The beneficiation work that these plants perform allows electricity generators to burn coal clean- ly and cost effectively. The state of the coal prep business is a direct reflection of the industry itself. During the last year or so, the coal business has slowed con- siderably and, even though several prop- e r t i e s c h a n g e d h a n d s , n o n e w p l a n t s were reported. O v e r a l l , t h e t o t a l n u m b e r o f p r e p plants listed in Coal Age's U.S. Prep Plant C e n s u s r e m a i n e d s t e a d y a t 2 6 9 v s . 2 6 8 l a s t y e a r . O f t h o s e p l a n t s , 4 6 ( o r 1 7 % ) r e p o r t e d t h e i r s t a t u s a s i d l e . Geographically, the story remains pretty much the same. Most of the prep plants a r e l o c a t e d i n W e s t V i r g i n i a ( 7 9 ) a n d Kentucky (57), followed by Pennsylvania ( 4 3 ) , V i r g i n i a ( 1 8 ) , I n d i a n a ( 1 6 ) a n d Illinois (15). As far as prep plant operators, Alpha Natural Resource remains the undisputed leader with 29 plants, followed by Murray Energy (19), Patriot Coal(16), Arch Coal (15), Alliance Resource Partners (12), Rosebud Mining (10), Peabody Energy (8) and Blackhawk Mining (8). Murray Energy has grown quickly in the last few years and, with its acquisition of controlling interest in Foresight Energy, it technically controls four more plants in addition to its existing fleet of 15 plants. Blackhawk Mining's presence grew s u b s t a n t i a l l y l a s t y e a r w i t h t h e J a m e s R i v e r C o a l a c q u i s i t i o n a n d , a s i t i n t e - grates the Patriot assets, it will add sever- a l m o r e p l a n t s . L a s t y e a r , C o a l A g e wrongly assumed that all of the plants listed under the control of James River r o l l e d o v e r t o B l a c k h a w k . S i x o f t h o s e plants, all in Kentucky, were sold to other c o a l o p e r a t o r s . T h e F . M . B u r k e p r e p plant was sold to Booth Energy. The Bell, B l e d s o e a n d S h a m r o c k p r e p p l a n t s were sold to Revelation Energy. McCoy Elkhorn operates the Bevins Branch prep plant. Appalachian Mining & Reclama- t i o n o p e r a t e s t h e I v e l p r e p p l a n t i n Kentucky. Two Arch Coal prep plants (Buffalo a n d P a t r i o t ) w e r e r e m o v e d i n W e s t Virginia. Arch Coal also listed its Eastern p r e p p l a n t ( f o r m a l l y k n o w n a s B i r c h River) as idle. The company also added two idled plants in Kentucky that Coal A g e h a d o v e r l o o k e d l a s t y e a r : R a v e n a n d S u p r e m e . A l l i a n c e C o a l ' s W O R P r o c e s s i n g i n I l l i n o i s i s n o w l i s t e d a s H a m i l t o n C o u n t y . L a s t y e a r , A l p h a ' s Green Valley plant in West Virginia was listed twice and the duplicate has been removed. With a raw feed capacity of 8,200 tons per hour (tph), CONSOL Energy's Bailey prep plant is the largest. Two plants have a r a w f e e d c a p a c i t y o f 3 , 0 0 0 t p h , t h e G a l a t i a p r e p p l a n t i n I l l i n o i s a n d t h e C e n t u r y p r e p p l a n t i n O h i o . B o t h a r e controlled by Murray Energy. In addition to those plants, another 14 plants have r a w f e e d c a p a c i t i e s o f 2 , 0 0 0 t p h o r greater. Processing Trends While no new plants are currently being built, existing prep plants are still mak- i n g u p g r a d e s i f t h e y c a n j u s t i f y t h e investment. "There are a few upgrades taking place, but not many," said Dennis P h i l l i p s , p r e s i d e n t , P h i l l i p s P r o c e s s Engineering. "Some plants are consider- ing plate presses for fine refuse due to lack of impoundment/pond space and for better compaction." Many plants are unsure of their future so they are holding off on upgrades, Phillips explained. He said he knew of only two projects put out for bid this year in the U.S. These market conditions have per- s i s t e d o n a n d o f f f o r m a n y y e a r s a n d most of the plant operators have harvest- ed the low hanging fruit as far as opti- mization. However, Phillips explained that there are still a few plant operators that don't know what they don't know. "At most plants, anything that can recov- er enough coal to pay for the investment is still being considered, although the f i n a n c i a l p a y b a c k t h r e s h o l d i s m u c h shorter than before," Phillips said. In the last year, he has seen operators add flota- tion, install two-stage sieves and replace existing heavy-media cyclones with large cyclones. One of the promising new technolo- gies for prep plants that Phillips sees is the use of membrane plate presses for d e w a t e r i n g f r o t h f l o t a t i o n p r o d u c t . "These presses have the ability to recover a l l o f t h e s u p e r - f i n e s t h a t a r e l o s t b y screen bowl centrifuges, and the mois- tures are usually better than disk vacuum filters," Phillips said "However, they also recover the high-ash clays in the froth product, so one has to do a better job at a s h r e m o v a l i n f l o t a t i o n . T o p r e v e n t degrading the total product for steam coals, the as-received Btu value of the super-fines has to be as good as the next lump to float in heavy media. Some of the new thermal drying techniques have an application here." Readers can reach Dennis Phillips at: coalprep@yahoo.com. Coal Age makes every effort to contact as many prep plant operators as possible when it conducts its a n n u a l P r e p P l a n t C e n s u s . T h e M i n e Safety and Health Administration also contributes along with some of the firms that build and upgrade prep plants. Coal Age would like to express its gratitude to all of those who contributed. If a plant was omitted, please contact us. 26 www.coalage.com October 2015 u . s . p r e p p l a n t c e n s u s 2 0 1 5 2015 U.S. Prep Plant Census B Y S T E V E F I S C O R , E D I T O R - I N - C H I E F While a number of plants changed hands, the total number remains relatively stable

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