Illinois scrubs up

THE new face of clean coal technology, especially scrubbers, is playing a huge role in the future of the industry in the Illinois Basin, according to a US consulting firm.
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Galatia mine. Courtesy Illinois State Geological Survey

Donna Schmidt

In a report released recently by Hill and Associates – Illinois Basin Coal Supply, Demand, and Price Trends to 2016 – there are sufficient project commencements on the horizon in the region for it to realise 105 million tons of production this year.

“With enough demand, the basin’s production could grow to 154Mt by 2016, with an upside potential to nearly double that,” Hill said of the region.

The consultancy has also added a special section to the report on the region’s remaining mineable low-sulfur reserves. In fact, it noted, basin production expanded by 3Mt to 96Mt in 2005 alone.

The news is quite a change from just a few short years ago: in the 1990s, utilities attempting to comply with the Clean Air Act secured output from other areas causing the Illinois Basin region’s production to tumble by an estimated 50%. The interest in other new technologies, such as coal-to-liquids and gasification, is also helping to turn that around, according to Hill.

Another large factor in the turnaround comprises the incoming producers and those enjoying growth in the area.

“With expansions by Peabody, Arch/Knight Hawk, Murray Energy, Alcoa, and a new mine by Chris Cline, Illinois is poised to expand from 34Mt in 2006 to 39Mt in 2007,” Hill representatives said, adding expansion will also be aided by new faces such as Drummond, American Clean Coal and MEDCO.

Indiana and the western regions of Kentucky – the former of which is known historically for catering to a “niche market” of customers – will also see a bright light.

“In 2006, Indiana produced 35Mt and is poised to produce 37Mt in 2007,” Hill said.

At the same time, it added, “West Kentucky produced 27.6Mt … and is poised to expand to 30Mt in 2007.”

In that area, complexes being developed by such industry forces as Alliance, Peabody, Massey and others “suggest West Kentucky producers plan to produce 51Mt by 2016 with upside potential to nearly double that”.

Also included in the new report by the Maryland outfit is its outlook on markets and transportation, which it noted will have a particular attractiveness to not only buyers looking to secure trend information, but also for producers who seek to develop their own output price points and remain competitive in the continued industry boom.

Illinois Basin Coal Supply, Demand, and Price Trends to 2016 includes the report as well as interactive features, such as an electronic mine/reserve database, as well as its 2007 Illinois Basin Coal Activity Map and 2007 Illinois Basin Generalized Coal Control Map. The maps, the firm noted, can be obtained separately.

For more information on the report, check out the next issue of American Longwall Magazine.