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Coal Transportation Rates to the Electric Power Sector

With Data through 2012  |  Release Date: July 29, 2014  |  Next Release Date: May 2015  |

Previous Data Years

Background and Methodology

The data in the tables are based on primary data collected by EIA from plant owners and operators on the Form EIA-923, "Power Plant Operations Report" (EIA-923 Data) and supplement data and analysis of coal transportation costs released by EIA in June 2011 and November 2012.

The initial report on coal transportation rates covered the years 2001 through 2008, applied only to railroad shipment, and was based exclusively on waybill sample data obtained from the U.S. Surface Transportation Board. The follow-on report provided an additional year of waybill sample data and incorporated data collected by EIA on the Form EIA-923 Data for shipments by railroad, waterway, and truck for years 2008 through 2010. This third set of tables on coal transportation rates provides transportation rates based on Form EIA-923 Data for the years 2008 through 2012. The rates for the years 2008 and 2010 are slightly different than the rates previously published by EIA due to minor changes in methodology. Transportation rates for 2011 and 2012 have not been previously published.

EIA is no longer able to provide updates to Waybill Data due to STB's modified interpretation of their data confidentiality obligation.

As in previous version of the EIA-923 Data, the rates are based on primary mode of transportation. Since some shipments include a primary and secondary mode of transport, these rates do not necessarily reflect the rates associated with only one transport mode. In addition, the rates do not reflect shipments made to cogenerators and other end-users of electricity and are based only on shipments made to plants in the electric power sector. EIA defined the electric power sector as consisting of electric utilities and regulated and unregulated independent power producers.

The rates were calculated by subtracting the commodity cost of the delivered coal from the total delivered cost, as reported by owners and operators of power plants with a combined nameplate capacity of 50 megawatts and above. Since the commodity cost and delivered cost data are reported in terms of energy content (i.e. million British thermal units), the costs were converted to dollars per ton using the average energy content of each shipment reported on the form. The representative transportation cost for each coal mine state, destination state and transportation mode is a weighted average. Finally, the values were converted to constant 2012 dollars by using the Implicit Price Deflators for Gross Domestic Product, as published by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis in Table 1.1.9 of the National Income and Products Accounts Table.

EIA made a number of assumptions when calculating the transportation costs. Most notably, EIA applied an internal methodology to identify and exclude costs it believed to be outliers. In addition, only records that had reported values for commodity cost and delivered cost were used (i.e. no imputed values were used).

EIA assigned coal shipments to basins based on counties as set out below:

  • Northern Appalachia consists of Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Northern West Virginia.
  • Central Appalachia consists of Eastern Kentucky, Virginia, Southern West Virginia, and the Tennessee counties of: Anderson, Campbell, Claiborne, Cumberland, Fentress, Morgan, Overton, Pickett, Putnam, Roane, and Scott.
  • Southern Appalachia consists of Alabama, and the Tennessee counties of: Bledsoe, Coffee, Franklin, Grundy, Hamilton, Marion, Rhea, Sequatchie, Van Buren, Warren, and White.
  • Illinois Basin consists of Illinois, Indiana, and Western Kentucky.
  • Powder River Basin consists of the Montana counties of Big Horn, Custer, Powder River, Rosebud, and Treasure and the Wyoming counties of Campbell, Converse, Crook, Johnson, Natrona, Niobrara, Sheridan, and Weston.
  • Uinta Basin consists of the Colorado counties of Delta, Garfield, Gunnison, Mesa, Moffat, Pitkin, Rio Blanco, Routt and the Utah counties of Carbon, Duchesne, Emery, Grand, Sanpete, Sevier, Uintah, Utah, and Wasatch

The EIA data included shipments with blank counties that originated in thirteen states (generally, due to the plant purchasing coal from a blender that uses coal purchased from multiple mines). In such cases, EIA assigned the shipments to a coal basin based on the origin state and, when appropriate, other factors. Shipments originating in Alabama were assigned to Southern Appalachia since there is no other coal basin present in the state. Similarly, shipments originating in Maryland, Ohio, and Pennsylvania were assigned to Northern Appalachia, and all shipments originating in Illinois and Indiana were assigned to the Illinois Basin. While there are portions of Tennessee in both Central Appalachia and Southern Appalachia, there has not been any production in the latter since 1999 so all records were assigned to the former. In addition, EIA assigned all shipments originating in Utah to the Uinta Basin even though, in theory, a small number of the shipments count have originated in coal mines that are not technically part of the basin.

For coal with a missing county that originated in Kentucky, EIA assigned all shipments with average sulfur content greater than 2.4 percent to Illinois Basin and the others to Central Appalachia. For coal with a missing county that originated in West Virginia, EIA assigned all shipments with average sulfur content greater than 1.6 percent to Northern Appalachia and the others to Central Appalachia. For coal with a missing county that originated in Wyoming, EIA only assigned shipments with an average energy content less than or equal greater 17.9 million British thermal units per ton to the Powder River Basin.

Since cost data collected on the Form EIA-923 are confidential, EIA had to ensure that rates were suitably aggregated to prevent any individual rates from being observed or inferred. To do this, EIA withheld rates where the number of plants within a particular aggregation of rates was less than three.


Contact:

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Email: Elias Johnson


U.S. coal transportation rates XLS PDF
Table 1. Real average transportation and delivered costs of coal, by year and primary transport mode    
Table 2. Real average annual coal transportation costs, by primary transport mode and supply region    
Table 3a. Real average annual coal transportation costs from coal basin to state by truck    
Table 3b. Real average annual coal transportation costs from coal basin to state by waterway    
Table 3c. Real average annual coal transportation costs from coal basin to state by railroad    
Table 4a. Real average annual coal transportation costs from state to state by truck    
Table 4b. Real average annual coal transportation costs from state to state by waterway    
Table 4c. Real average annual coal transportation costs from state to state by railroad