Sunday, March 11, 2012

Natural Gas and its Threat to the U.S. Coal Industry (BTU; ACI; ANR; PCX)

From Sober Look:

US coal industry under pressure from natural gas
The US coal industry is in trouble. It is being squeezed by slower expected coal demand from China, new environmental regulations, and in particular by cheap abundant US natural gas. Take Ohio for example. Three major natural gas fired power plants that in the past were used for peak generation only (to supplement coal powered plants during peak demand hours in the summer), are now used throughout the year.
EIA: In Ohio, the Hanging Rock, Waterford, and Washington power plants are three combined cycle plants with a combined capacity of 2,698 megawatts that have increased their generation significantly since 2008 (see chart above). These combined cycle plants are highly efficient in using natural gas to produce electricity, with each having an average heat rate around 7,200 Btu/kWh. These three plants made up 8 percent of the electricity generation in Ohio during 2011 and 13 percent in December. In 2008, these three facilities only produced 1 percent of the electricity generated in the state.
On the other hand the usage of coal powered plants has been declining.
EIA: Seven coal plants in Ohio (with a combined capacity of 7,113 megawatts and an average heat rate around 10,500 Btu/kWh) have experienced a significant drop in generation in recent years. In the chart below, the generation share of these seven sample coal plants, expressed as its share of total generation from both sample coal and natural gas plants, is compared to the corresponding share of the three combined cycle plants.

This trend is not limited to Ohio. Here are the national statistics comparing the last two years of coal vs. natural gas usage...MORE