Generation from coal down in WV, nation in 2012 - Clarksburg, Morgantown: News, Sports, Weather

Generation from coal down in WV, nation in 2012

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Coal-fired power generation was down in West Virginia in 2012.

And when coal-fired generation is down, total generation is down.

Power plants in the state generated 72 million megawatt hours in 2012, according to full-year data for 2012 based on preliminary numbers for December from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

That's the lowest level of any year this millennium, other than the recession year of 2009, when big power user Century Aluminum curtailed operations at its Ravenswood plant. Generation in 2012 was down from 78 million MWh in 2011 and 80 million in 2010.

The state record was more than 93 million MWh, in 2002.

Since nearly all of the state's generation is from coal — 96.6 percent in 2012 — coal generation was down in 2012 too. That came to about 70 million MWh, compared with 76 million in 2011 and 78 million in 2010.

The state's record generation from coal also was in 2002, at 92 million MWh. Back then, coal made up 98.8 percent of the state's total generation. Wind generation, as a side note, surpassed hydroelectric in the state in 2010 and made up 1.8 percent of the total in 2012. It is the growing sliver that is edging coal's share down.

Nationally, coal ended the year at 38.5 percent of generation, down from 43.5 percent in 2011 and down dramatically from the 50 percent it made up as recently as 2008. Natural gas ended at 29.2 percent for the year, up from 23.5 percent in 2011.

In West Virginia, power plants took delivery of 29.0 million tons of coal in 2012. That was down 2.6 percent from 29.7 million tons delivered in 2011.

Four plants that took delivery of some amounts of coal in 2011 were not listed as receiving any coal in 2012. These include FirstEnergy's now-shuttered Albright, Rivesville and Willow Island plants and the Morgantown Energy Associates plant that actually is operating. The reason no coal deliveries are listed for MEA in 2012 is not immediately obvious, but the plant represents a small part of the volume for the state.

Some operating plants simply took a lot less coal. FirstEnergy's Fort Martin and Harrison plants each took about 800,000 tons less coal, and Dominion Resources' Mt. Storm plant took half a million tons less.

The drop-off at those plants was somewhat offset by modest increases in deliveries to a few plants, but primarily by the placing in service in late 2011 of the Longview power plant outside Morgantown.

Coal sourced from West Virginia mines represents about half of coal delivered. That dropped by 800,000 tons in 2012, and coal from Kentucky dropped by 600,000 tons. Coal from Ohio, Pennsylvania and Maryland rose.

The largest supplier in both years, Consol Energy and subsidiaries sourced their coal mostly from West Virginia: 82 percent of it from West Virginia in 2012, down from 87 percent in 2011.

Murray Energy was an easy second supplier both years, and its coal comes from Ohio.

Most of number three Alliance Resource Partners' coal comes from Maryland, including the single largest amount from any one mine in 2012: the Mettiki General mine in Garrett County, with 2.3 million tons delivered to Mt. Storm.

Mepco of Morgantown moved into fourth place, supplying the new Longview plant from its 4 West mine just over the border in Pennsylvania.

The largest suppliers mined all or the greatest part of their coal destined for West Virginia power plants in the Northern Appalachian basin.

Transportation shifted a little in 2012. While river transport of coal dominated with a share in the mid-40 percents in both 2012 and 2011, truck, rail and river transport all were down by volumes in that order — truck transport down largely due to the missing MEA data, and to the closure of the Albright plant.

But with the opening of Longview, conveyor transport was up.

FirstEnergy's Harrison station received 3.1 million tons of coal by conveyor in 2012 from Consol's Robinson Run #95 mine, and AEP's Mitchell plant received 1.8 million tons by conveyor from Consol's McElroy mine. Added to that was Longview's 1.7 million tons, which arrived by conveyor from the 4 West mine.

With that, conveyor edged out rail in 2012 to become the second most commonly used mode of transportation for coal to power plants in West Virginia: river at 46 percent, conveyor at 23 percent, rail at 19 percent and truck at 13.