Power plant coal stockpiles are low in the U.S. and the Upper Midwest, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA). Power plants stockpiles in the Upper Midwest burned a significant amount of coal last winter, leaving many facilities to rebuild the stockpiles; and with nearly two-thirds of coal moving from a coal mine to a power plant facility, many operators want more coal than what was received in 2013.
Coal supply in the Upper Midwest is slightly up from 2013, by 0.3 percent. In October, coal car loadings increased by about 4.7 percent higher than this time last year. Railroads faced weather-related problems last winter that curtailed deliveries, and so far this year, coal has been vying for space on railroads, competing with record grain harvests, and increasing amounts of petroleum and petroleum products shipments.
Four small plants in Minnesota have shut down to conserve coal stocks after grid operators chose to dispatch other units during the season. With concerns about coal availability, operators have opted for other sources, such as natural gas-fired generation, to make up the difference. In addition, some power plants have increased their purchases of coal moved by truck to their power plants, at higher costs compared to usual rail shipments, the EIA said.
Coal stockpiles totaled 121 million tons at the end of August 2014; the amount of coal capacity with less than 60 days of burn was 63 percent compared to only 42 percent at the end of August 2013.
EIA is not taking into account lignite or waste coal, as these plants rely on coal from mine-mouth sources and do not maintain stocks comparable to other coal plants.
Read more coal-fired news