W.Va. Waterborne Coal Shipments Continue Decline
The State Journal
21 January 2017
By Jim Ross
Following a years-long trend, coal shipments on West Virginia
waterways declined last year, and in some areas they were down
sharply from their recent high in 2005.
- At the seven locks and dams on the Ohio River in West
Virginia, coal tonnage fell from 2.2 percent at the Racine
Locks and Dam between Point Pleasant and Ravenswood to 20.8
percent at the New Cumberland Locks and Dam near the tip of
the Northern Panhandle.
- The decline comes in part as power plants burn less coal
because of an industry shift to natural gas and renewables,
and in part because Appalachian coal is losing market share to
coal from the Illinois Basin.
- Compared to the peak year of 2005, shipment of coal
through the Robert C. Byrd Locks and Dam between Point
Pleasant and Huntington is down nearly 70 percent, from 42
million tons to about 12.7 million tons last year. Decreases
at other Ohio River locks and dams ranged from 26.4 percent at
Racine to 46.8 percent at the Pike Island Locks and Dam at the
northern end of Wheeling.
- Coal shipments through the three locks and dams on the
Kanawha River also decreased last year compared with 2015.
- While coal shipments are on the way down, shipments of
petroleum and petroleum products are on the way up, partly
because of increased activity in the Marcellus and Utica Shale
regions of West Virginia and Ohio. Shipments at most Ohio
River locks in West Virginia doubled or nearly doubled last
year when compared with 2015.
- In deliveries to U.S. power plants, more coal from West
Virginia was transported by water in 2015 than by rail. Based
on data from the Energy Information Administration, about
26.86 million tons of West Virginia coal was delivered to
power plants by barge and about 24.04 million tons was
delivered by rail. Final numbers for 2016 will not be
available until later this year.
- Railroads also reported decreased coal shipments last
year. Based on carloads moved, CSX Corp. said its coal
shipments ended 2016 at 765,846, down 19 percent from 2015.
That was system wide, not just for West Virginia. Norfolk
Southern reported moving 835,622 carloads in 2016, down 17.8
percent from 2015.