Metallurgical Coal Resources in Eastern Kentucky

Grants and Contracts Details


Coal mining has been a mainstay of eastern Kentucky's economy, as well as significant part of the Commonwealth's economy, for many decades. Although coal production in eastern Kentucky has declined somewhat since 1990 when Kentucky produced 179.4 million tons of coal, a record high, the region still has significant resources available for future extraction. The prospect of eastern Kentucky coal having a future in the expanding metallurgical coal market would have very positive benefits for not only eastern Kentucky, but the entire state as well. While metallurgical blend coal could possibly be found in most parts of the Eastern Kentucky Coal Field, the counties that will likely contain these resources and benefit from this research are Pike, Floyd, Letcher, Perry, and Knott. Most of the coal produced from eastern Kentucky has been, and continues to be, used by the electric utility industry because of its low sulfur content. As such, a significant portion of eastern Kentucky coal is so-called"compliance coal", which can be burned without flue gas desulfurization (FGD) to control sulfur dioxide (502) emissions. In 2009, 74.7 million tons of coal were produced from the Eastern Kentucky Coal Field, most of which (89.4 %) was consumed by electric utilities in 26 states. Although only a small amount (724 thousand tons) of eastern Kentucky coal was used domestically for the production of metallurgical coke, a greater amount (1.2 million tons) was exported to other countries, primarily for use in the steel industry. However, as the electric utility industry continues to expand its use of scrubbers, which allows less expensive, high sulfur coal to be used, the demand for low sulfur coal in the electric utility market is likely to decline. If utilities continue to switch from low sulfur to higher sulfur coal, alternative markets such as metallurgical coal, will have to be found to keep production levels in eastern Kentucky from drastically decreasing. Exports of coking coal, used in steel production, rose to an estimated 55 million tons in 2010, up from the low of 22 million tons in 2002, and the highest level since 1991. Brazil remained the largest buyer of exported U.S. coking coal in 2010. Compared to 2009, exports of U.S. coking coal increased significantly to the Netherlands, Poland, Turkey, Ukraine, China, India, Japan, and South Korea during 2010. The 2010 export level was nearly three times the consumption of coking coal at U.S. coke plants. The United States consumed less coking coal domestically, due in part to the continued adoption of technologies such as electric arc furnace (EAF) technology, an alternative steelmaking process. EAF technology recycles scrap steel and does not require coking coal (USDOE/EIA, 2011). However, substantial steel production growth in developing countries, combined with international coal supply shortages (mainly due to weather and transportation bottlenecks in other coal exporting countries), fostered substantial growth in U.s. coking coal exports in recent years. China only began importing coking coal in sizable quantities in 2009, when its total imports from all countries jumped to 39 million tons from 2 million tons in 2008. Many steel-producing countries edged toward economic recovery during that year, and China's crude steel production continued to set records. The ultimate question this proposed study is designed to address is, "just how much metallurgical-grade coal remains in eastern Kentucky"? This proposal addresses the RFP priority topic of " other coal research" .
Effective start/end date7/1/116/30/12


  • KY Energy and Environment Cabinet: $52,770.00


Explore the research topics touched on by this project. These labels are generated based on the underlying awards/grants. Together they form a unique fingerprint.