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VII TRANSPORTATION In the United States, the transportation of coal from the nine to the consumer has traditionally been by rail, truck, or water, but the distances involved usually have not been more than a few hundred miles. As the center of coal output moves toward the large reserves of coal in the Nest, however, shipping distances will be much greater and traditional shipping patterns will be materially altered. As a result of environmental considerations, low-sulfur coal from Wyoming and Montana now is being shipped as far as Pennsylvania, Texas, and Oregon, but changes in clean air standards at the federal or state levels could have a dramatic impact on trends brought about by the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1970. Any uncertainty in this area could affect the level of investment made in mining and transportation facilities. In addition to rail, truck, and water transportation of coal, other modes now in use are coal slurry pipelines and high-voltage electrical energy transmission froir mine-mouth power plants. When coal gasification or liquefaction achieves commercial status, the gas or liquid coal products will move to market by pipeline. More detailed descriptions are given below of the key modes of long-distance coal energy transportation used today. Trucks are not considered because of their relatively short transport capabilities. A. RAILROADS Coal currently accounts for 29 percent of the total rail traffic originating in the United States. The irajor development in this form of coal transportation has been the increased use of unit trains during the past five years. Trains of approximately 100 one-hundred-ton cars (about 10,000 tons) are loaded directly at the mine and hauled to a single destination. On three of the most important western railroads, it is estimated that this type of coal movement will increase from the 1975 level of about 50 trillion tons to almost 200 million tons by 1980. Transportation costs filed with the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) for 1972-1973 were 4.5 to 5 mills per ton- 51
mile for unit trains. Rates in 1975 increased to 7 to 7.5 mills and further escalation into the 10-mill range is anticipated. Railroads generally have been used to agree on a rate for the shipment of tonnage on a long-term contract basis, largely because of ICC regulations, and consequently have had difficulty in securing financing arrangements for specific trackage and facilities needed. Increased coal shipments will require improved or additional roadbed, trackage, siding, and traffic control systems. Substantial capital also will be needed for rolling stock and locomotives. B. WATER TRANSPORTATION Combination rail-barge coal transportation systems are presently in operation (e.g., traffic moves to Mississippi River ports in East St. Louis by unit trains and is transshipped by barge to destinations on the Mississippi, Ohio, and Tennessee Rivers) and others have been proposed. At most river ports, rail shipments can be unloaded into storage and then reloaded onto barges or loaded directly from rail cars onto barges. Shipments via barge from the St. Louis area to New Orleans, a distance of 1,030 miles, cost approximately $4.25 per ton including handling, which is equivalent to 4.13 mills per ton-mile. Shipirents from St. Louis to Houston, a distance of 1,275 miles, cost approximately $6.25 per ton including handling or 4.90 mills per ton-mile. Barge transportation from Metropolis, Illinois, to various points on the Ohio River also is being considered. Coal also is delivered by unit trains to Superior, Wisconsin, for transshipment by deep-water vessels to ports on the Great Lakes. Unit train shipments to this facility started on March 17, 1976, and 204 unit trains were unloaded as of November 19, 1976. As of this latter date, 58 ships were loaded at an average rate of 7.5 tons per hour. Present throughput is 14 to 15 million tons per year, and this can be increased to 20 million tons per year. This available capacity should provide great impetus for moving western coal to many cities on the Great Lakes. C. ELECTRIC POWER GENERATION Mine-mouth electric generating plants provide means for transporting coal energy to consumers in both the eastern and western United States by extra-high-voltage (EHV) transmission. The use of such plants has been growing in part because of the development of extra-high-voltage lines (345-765 V) that allow transmission over distances of 300 to 800 miles without excessive line losses. The siting of these power plants, however, is dependent not only on the location of the coal but also on the presence of an adequate 52
water supply, and on environmental and socioeconomic cons ider at i ons. Whether cooling towers or direct cooling are used, the water requirements are substantial, and this limits the number of mine-mouth plants that can be installed in the eastern United states. Water requirements are an even greater limitation in the arid regions of the West and air cooling is being tried (i.e., the largest air-cooled power plant in the world is now under construction at the Wyodak property near Gillette, Wyoming; water for other uses is provided by the treated sewer effluent from Gillette). With present EHV technology, line losses for distances over 800 miles become great, and if often proves more economical to ship the coal and generate electric power near the point of use. Even higher transmission voltages of 765 V are being considered, and this may alleviate the distance problems. Serious consideration now is being given to the transmission of power at extremely low temperatures (superconducting) and to the use of direct current to reduce line losses and increase the distances over which power is transmitted. D. SLURRY PIPELINES Coal crushed to a maximum size of about 1/16 inch can be mixed with somewhat less than an equal weight of water and pumped through pipelines. The water then can te drained from the slurry at the point of consumption; drying may be necessary in some cases. Slurry pipelines are feasible from an engineering and technological standpoint. The first line in the United States was built in 1957 between Cadiz and Cleveland, Ohio, a distance of 108 miles, and operated for several years. About 11 years ago a second line was built from Black Mesa, Arizona, to a power plant in Nevada 273 miles away and is continuing to operate successfully. Several pipelines to carry western coal over long distances are now proposed for construction between: 1. Walsenburg, Colorado, and the lower part of Texas (the Corpus Christi vicinity) 2. Montana and Houston, Texas 3. Gillette, Wyoming, and Houston, Texas 4. Alton, Utah, and Las Vegas, Nevada 5. Gillette, Wyoming, and Oregon. 53
The proponents of such construction maintain that pipeline transport costs for distances over 1,000 miles will be approximately half those of rail transportation for very large volumes of coal (i.e., from 25 to 30 million tons per year) and that annual cost escalation will be lower. These statements, however, are disputed by the railroads. One of the major problems of using slurry pipelines is the water requirement. Many of the coal mining regions in the West are semiarid, and water may be in short supply. It is not proposed that the water used be recycled, and while this would be possible, it would seriously affect the economics of the system. Disposal of the water after it has been mixed with the coal also may present some environmental problems. Approximately 170 to 200 gallons of water are used for 1 ton of coal; therefore, 5 billion gallons (15,000 acre-feet) would be required for 25 million tons of coal per year. In Wyoming, the Madison formation is an aquifer estimated to contain 1 billion acre-feet of water that is recharging at an average rate of 75,000 acre-feet per year. Although the state of Wyoming already has passed legislation that makes this water available for slurry pipelining, this is a very controversial matter affecting not only Wyoming but also some of the surrounding states. Whether water for additional pipelines will be made available is not known. The Slurry Transportation Association is drafting language to submit to the 95th Congress proposing the right of eminent domain for slurry pipelines; however, the Office of Technology Assessment is making a study of the subject, and it is doubtful whether Congress will act until the report is issued. The proposed legislation will not give any special authorization for coal slurry pipelines to be built but will give them the right of eminent domain and, thus, the opportunity to compete with rail transport systems since without such rights, the pipelines very likely would not be permitted to cross railroad rights-of-way. Recent action by the pipeline companies, however, indicates that this legislation may not be essential in that the Slurry Transportation Association is investigating the legality of purchasing subsurface rights under railroad rights-of-way. If this proves legally feasible, pipelines may not require the right of eminent domain.