For the major power producers in the world coal is still king. Surprisingly, only Canada and Brazil produce more power from renewable energy (hydro) that from fossil fuels/nuclear. There is only one small coal mine ‘north of 56’ located in Alaska, but some attractive deposits.
Some interesting facts about coal:
According the the IEA “Coal is and will remain the world’s most abundant and widely distributed fossil fuel. Burning coal, however, can pollute and it produces carbon dioxide. Clean coal technologies address this problem. The widespread deployment of pollution-control equipment to reduce sulphur dioxide, Nox and dust emissions from industry is just one example which has brought cleaner air to many countries. Since the 1970s, various policy and regulatory measures have created a growing commercial market for these clean coal technologies, with the result that costs have fallen and performance has improved. More recently, the need to tackle rising CO2 emissions to address climate change means that clean coal technologies now extend to include those for CO2 capture and storage (CCS). “
Coal consumption increased by nearly 60% from 4 600 million tonnes (mt) in 2000 to an estimated 7 200mt in 2010. Coal is the key fuel in both countries’ energy mix and since economic growth and energy use are highly correlated, coal demand prospects for both countries are bullish to 2016.
The Usibelli Coal Mine, a family-owned mine located outside Healy, is the only operating coal mine in Alaska. The mine has been in continuous operation since 1943 and celebrated its 70th year mining Alaskan coal last year. Of the coal the mine produced half was exported in 2013, while much of the remainder was used to fuel 30% of Interior Alaska’s electricity. Roughly 700,000 tons was exported to customers in Chile, South Korea, and Japan, and the remainder was used to fuel about 30% of Interior Alaska’s electricity. The mine employs 120-140 Alaskans, including several second and third generation employees at Usibelli. UCM produced about 1.7 two million tons of coal in 2013.
The Chuitna Coal Project, located in the Beluga Coal Field of Southcentral Alaska, consists of three major components, the Chuitna Coal Mine, a coal transport system and export terminal, and a supporting infrastructure component. The cornerstone of the development is 20,000 acres of State of Alaska leases with measured reserves of ultra low-sulfur coal in excess of one billion tons. The Chuitna Coal Project is currently in the permitting process, with anticipated draft permits in 2014-2015. PacRim Coal anticipates the project will employ approximately 300 – 350 people during production.
Coal remains an important fuel for most advanced nations, particularly in fast growing Asia. Alaska has about 15% of the world’s coal reserves. The Chuitna Coal Project could create a few hundred jobs and lead to steady exports for many years.
The hard to access coal reserves in Alaska are mostly located in the remote north-west part of the state and would require major port and rail infrastructure investments.