EIA Report Says Coal Consumption Has Dropped Across Most Sectors
By Dave Kovaleski
June 23, 2020 - Since its peak in 2007 of 1.1 billion short tons, U.S. coal consumption has declined by almost half to 590 million short tons (MMst) in 2019, reported the U.S. Energy Information Administration in its Quarterly Coal Report.
The electric power industry now accounts for the vast majority of domestic coal consumption, over 90 percent, EIA said.
Coal consumption in the industrial and commercial sectors has dropped from 98 MMst in 2000 to 48 MMst in 2019. In 2019, 62 percent of industrial coal consumption was used in manufacturing, with most of it centered on food manufacturing, where coal is used largely for heating purposes. For example, in sugar manufacturing, sugar cane juice has to be boiled to extract the sugar crystals, requiring an intense heat. Coal can also provide electricity for food processing facilities located in remote areas.
Coal consumption in food manufacturing has remained relatively stable since 2000. However, there have been sharp declines in other manufacturing industries. The most significant declines in coal use have been in the paper manufacturing, chemical manufacturing, and primary metal manufacturing industries. For example, in the primary metal manufacturing industry, coal consumption has dropped from 9 MMst to 3 MMst since 2010.
Coal is also used to produce coke, which is created by heating coal at high temperatures to burn off impurities, resulting in nearly pure carbon. Coal coke is used as a fuel in blast furnaces to make steel and smelting iron. Coking plant coal consumption has fallen by 38 percent from 29 MMst in 2000 to 18 MMst in 2019.
The commercial and institutional sector, which includes universities, correctional facilities, and hospitals, accounts for the smallest portion of U.S. coal consumption. Between 2000 and 2019, commercial and institutional consumption declined from 4.1 MMst to 0.9 MMst.