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Coal Transportation Rates to the Electric Power Sector

With Data through 2020  |  Release Date: April 28, 2021  |  Next Release Date: April 2022

Previous Data Years

Background and Methodology

The data tables are based on primary data that EIA collects from plant owners and operators on Form EIA-923, Power Plant Operations Report, and on supplement data and analysis of coal transportation costs that we released in June 2011 and November 2012.

The initial report on coal transportation rates covered 2001 through 2008, applied only to railroad shipments, and was based exclusively on waybill sample data obtained from the U.S. Surface Transportation Board (STB). The supplemental report provided an additional year of waybill sample data and incorporated data that we collected on Form EIA-923 for shipments by railroad, waterway, and truck for 2008 through 2010. The third set of tables on coal transportation rates provided transportation rates based on Form EIA-923 data for 2008 through 2012. The rates for 2008 and 2010 are slightly different from the rates we previously published due to minor changes in methodology. Transportation rates for 2011 and 2012 had not been previously published. The current release provides rates for the years 2008 through 2020 (data for 2020 are preliminary). We can no longer update waybill data due to STB's modified interpretation of their data confidentiality obligation.

As in previous iterations of Form EIA-923 data, the rates are based on primary mode of transportation. Because 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 they are based only on shipments made to plants in the electric power sector. We define the electric power sector as consisting of electric utilities and regulated and unregulated independent power producers.

We calculate nominal rates 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 or greater. Because the commodity cost and delivered cost data are reported in terms of energy content (that is, million British thermal units), the costs are 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. Lastly, we convert the values to constant 2016 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.

We make several assumptions when calculating the transportation costs. Most notably, we apply an internal methodology to identify and exclude costs that we believe to be outliers. In addition, we use only records that have reported values for commodity cost and delivered cost (in other words, we do not use imputed values).

We assign coal shipments to basins based on counties as set out below.

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

Our data include shipments to blank counties that originated in thirteen states (generally, because the plant purchases coal from a blender that uses coal purchased from multiple mines). In such cases, we assign the shipments to a coal basin based on the origin state and, when appropriate, other factors. Shipments originating in Alabama are assigned to southern Appalachia because it is the only coal basin 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. Although Tennessee overlaps both central Appalachia and southern Appalachia, coal has not been produced in southern Appalachia since 1990, so we assign all shipments to central Appalachia. In addition, we assign 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, we assign all shipments with average sulfur content greater than 2.4% to the Illinois Basin and the others to central Appalachia. For coal with a missing county that originated in West Virginia, we assign all shipments with average sulfur content greater than 1.6% to northern Appalachia and the others to central Appalachia. For coal with a missing county that originated in Wyoming, we 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.

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


Contact:

Bonnie West
Phone: 202-586-2415
Email: Bonnie West


U.S. coal transportation rates XLS PDF
Table 1. Average transportation and delivered costs of coal, by year and primary transport mode Real 

Nominal 


Table 2. Average annual coal transportation costs, by primary transport mode and supply region Real 

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Table 3a. Average annual coal transportation costs from coal basin to state by truck Real 

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Table 3b. Average annual coal transportation costs from coal basin to state by waterway Real 

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Table 3c. Average annual coal transportation costs from coal basin to state by railroad Real 

Nominal 


Table 4a. Average annual coal transportation costs from state to state by truck Real 

Nominal 


Table 4b. Average annual coal transportation costs from state to state by waterway Real 

Nominal 


Table 4c. Average annual coal transportation costs from state to state by railroad Real 

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Table 5. BEA Table 1.1.9 National income and product accounts table
Table 6. Annual coal shipments to plants in the electric power sector, by transport mode