COAL FACTS


COAL IS A CONCENTRATED FORM OF PREHISTORIC BIOMASS IN THE FORM OF PLANT LIFE AND IS THE MOST ABUNDANT FOSSIL FUEL PRODUCED IN THE UNITED STATES, WITH MONTANA HAVING THE LARGEST RESERVES.


Types of coal
Coal is classified into four main types, or ranks: anthracite, bituminous, subbituminous, and lignite. The ranking depends on the types and amounts of carbon the coal contains and on the amount of heat energy the coal can produce. The rank of a coal deposit is determined by the amount of pressure and heat that acted on the plants over time.

Image by Nick Nice

ENERGY


Coal was responsible for 23.5% of the electricity generated in the U.S. during 2019. Natural gas was responsible for 38.4%, nuclear power 19.7%, and renewable energy (including hydroelectric power) 17.5%. Non-hydroelectric renewables (wind, solar, geothermal, and biomass) were responsible for 10.9%.-US Energy Information Power Monthly, May 2020 edition

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EMISSIONS

Emissions per kilowatt-hour of sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), and particulate matter (PM) from coal-fired power plants have been reduced by 93% over the period 1970-2019.

Approximately $122 billion had been invested in emission controls through 2017. Owners of coal-fired EGUs are expected to spend an additional $5 billion for emission controls through 2020. 

The U.S. coal fleet emitted 973 million metric tons (tonnes) of CO2 in 2019. 14 U.S. energy-related CO2 emissions totaled over 5.13 billion tonnes in 2019. 15 Therefore, the coal fleet emitted 19% of U.S. energy-related CO2 emissions last year.

Image by Johannes Plenio

WILDFIRE PUTS OUT OVER 1,000 POUNDS OF PM10 PER ACRE.  IN THE YEAR 2000, 965,000 ACRES BURNING IN MONTANA RESULTING IN 482,000 TONS OF PM10 IN THE AIR. COLSTRIP UNITS 1-4 EMIT 225 TONS/YEAR OF PM10 .  PM10 EMITTED BY WILDFIRES IN MONTANA IN THE YEAR 2000 IS EQUAL TO 1,892 YEARS OF COLSTRIP UNITS 1-4.

Source: North Elkhorn Environmental Assessment, Helena National Forests, & Montana Department of Environmental Quality

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PM10  Emissions (Respirable-Size Particulates)
Compared BetweenColstrip Units 1-4 and Montana Wildfires

MONTANA PAYS AN AVERAGE OF 9-10 CENT PER KILOWATT HOUR.

Coal produces 27% of Montana's energy followed by Hydroelectric Power at 18% and Natural Gas at 16% keeping cost low to consumers.


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WHERE DOES MONTANA COAL GO?

In 2018, 22% of the coal mined in Montana was consumed in the state and mostly used by the electric power sector. About 42% of Montana's coal was sent to other states, mainly by rail to Michigan, Minnesota, and Washington for electricity generation.  The remaining 36% was exported to other countries, mostly to western Canada, where much of it continued on to Asia.

Source: US EIA, Annual Coal Distribution Report 2018

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