Illinois coal output and demand soaring

News-DemocratMay 1, 2013 

The Illinois coal industry continues to thrive while U.S. production has been declining.

A new report released Wednesday by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity revealed that the Land of Lincoln exported a record 13 million tons of coal last year after having exported 2.5 million tons in 2010.

"That is incredible," said Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity Assistant Director Dan Seals. "It is truly an unbelievable achievement."

The report, produced by Arlington, Va.-based energy industry consultant Energy Ventures Analysis Inc., cited that this surge in Illinois production was due to low production costs, the market's increased appetite for coal and access to major transportation, which includes American Milling Co.'s new $13.6 million coal terminal near the Port of Cahokia. The metro-east port can transfer up to 10 million tons of coal from rail to barges, down the Mississippi River, to the Port of New Orleans in the Gulf of Mexico.

"The export market is booming and we're blessed to be close to the rivers to export," said Illinois Coal Association President Phil Gonet. "Going from 2 million tons to 13 million tons is really impressive."

The report also found that total output across Illinois rose 25 percent to 47.2 million tons in 2012, up from 37.8 million in 2011. U.S. coal production dropped by 11 percent in that span.

Illinois is now the fifth-largest, coal-producing state in the nation. The industry supports more than 4,000 jobs statewide.

Energy Ventures Analysis Inc. principal and report author Emily Medine said Illinois is realizing its coal-exporting potential.

"It was a banner year for coal exports in Illinois," Medine said.

Medine said the state's recent surge in coal exports are due to the overall increase in the global steam coal market, the marketing efforts by major Illinois coal producers and traders, Illinois' competitiveness in the market and the increasing acceptance of the state's coal.

Over the past two years, the Land of Lincoln exported to 18 countries: Canada, Mexico, Chile, the Dominican Republic, Spain, Portugal, France, Germany, Belgium, Great Britain, Ireland, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, China, India, Pakistan and South Korea.

Contact reporter Will Buss at wbuss@bnd.com or 618-239-2526.

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