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Transloading Coal: Shipping A Powerful Commodity

Transloading Coal
Transloading Coal: Shipping A Powerful Commodity
Transloading coal is critical source of power in the global marketplace. It is essential to move this mineral resource fast, in bulk, and safely.
By Transload Services USA
 | August 26, 2022
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Last Modified: June 1, 2023

Transloading coal, regardless of whether or not the coal is for domestic or international purposes, is a critical transport method for energy production and industries that require coal. There is a clear and distinct advantage of transloading anything that is produced and required in large quantities. These needs and benefits are covered below, along with precisely why transloading makes sense for any business.

Transloading coal is critical to the transport of this fossil fuel across the United States. Much of the 546 million short tons of coal produced annually comes from the Midwest and Northeast regions. Transloading services offer shippers an efficient and reliable way to transport coal to other parts of the country.

Want to know how to transport coal in the fastest, most efficient way possible? The article below explains why transloading makes sense.

Why Is Coal Such an Important Commodity?

Transloading coal by train

Coal is an essential commodity at home here in the United States and abroad. Most American industries continue to utilize coal as a primary resource for powering their factories with cheap indispensable energy. 

It is also important to note that the demand for coal coming from the U. S. is exceptionally high. Other countries worldwide desire the American coal market, which continues to be a profitable export for coal companies.

Coal Production in 2020 (Top 5 Producing States) Millions of Short Tons

StateNumber of Short Tons
Wyoming220 million
West Virginia70 million
Pennsylvania35 million
Illinois30 million
North Dakota26 million

The quality of coal coming from the U. S. makes American coal such a hot commodity for energy use domestically and internationally. The largest coal deposit in the U. S. rests in Wyoming, and the Powder River Basin has an estimated one trillion short tons of coal. It is for this reason that Wyoming leads the nation in coal excavation. 

Regardless of other forms of power, coal remains a valuable natural resource both here at home and abroad. Unfortunately, coal is a hazardous resource when burned. Green initiatives continue to evolve yearly to change our dependency on coal energy to a more environmentally friendly alternative.

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Regulations Surrounding Coal Production and Storage

Transloading coal on a barge

Many regulations and statutes surround the mining, sale, and use of coal here in the U. S. Since the 1970s, the U. S. has taken an active role in the governance of coal production and use.

These regulations are very particular due to hazardous emissions that result from burning coal. Contaminants such as sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, and mercury are dangerous emissions that are harmful to the environment and life on earth.

Federal Regulations surrounding coal:

  • Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977
  • Clean Air Act of 1970
  • Clean Water Act of 1972
  • National Environmental Policy Act of 1970

Other Statutes known to affect coal mining, production, and trade:

  • American Indian Religious Freedoms Act
  • Archeological Historical Preservation Act
  • Archeological Salvage Act
  • Endangered Species Act
  • Forest and Rangeland Resources Planning Act
  • Mining and Minerals Policy Act
  • National Forests Management Act
  • Resource Conservation and Recovery Act
  • Soil and Water Resources Conservation Act
  • Wild and Scenic Rivers Act
  • Wilderness Act

As you can see, coal is a vital source of energy in America and a heavily regulated mineral. Due to the science surrounding coal and its effects on our environment and human health, coal has become more and more regulated.

Before doing business in the coal industry, it is essential to know any rules or regulations surrounding the production, acquisition, transport, and use. Transloading coal is a critical choice for your business or supply chain.

How to Transport Coal?

Transporting coal for transload

Once the coal has been mined, it is then ready for transport all over the country and around the world. Once mined, it is then prepped for transport. This task is done by loading and unloading coal onto conveyor systems or trucks to storage facilities within the mining operation.

Coal mining operations transport:

  • Conveyor: This transport method is used to move coal to storage areas before shipping. These conveyors come in the form of underground systems, conveyor belts, and conveyor structures.
  • Mine Trucks: Large transport vehicles with a 15 to 60-ton capacity that can move coal both under and above ground for hauling coal to staging areas for mine trucks or general staging areas.
  • Haul Trucks: Even larger transport vehicles with a 60 to 100-ton capacity that moves incredible amounts of coal above ground to storage areas before shipping.
  • Low Profile Rail Trams: Once used in mass, low profile rail trams are now less frequently used in mines and typically haul everything from supplies, equipment, and coal. 

Coal mining shipping transport solutions:

  • Truckload: Over-the-road trucking solutions can transport coal anywhere in the country, along with delivering these loads to a port for international shipping.
  • Slurry pipeline: This form of a pipeline is used to transport minerals such as coal over long distances cost-effectively.
  • Rail line: When transporting coal over a rail line, a hopper car is typically utilized. Rail lines move coal over long distances across the country.
  • Barges: The use of river barges is both common and inexpensive. The upside is the extended carrying capacity for coal which is around 1,500 tons per barge.
  • Vessels: A ship can load coal directly into a dry hold which depending on the ship, can carry a load of around 200,000 tons.
Source: Progressive Rail Incorporated

The practice of shifting mined coal to storage/staging areas that are then loaded for transport is commonplace at a mining facility. Since coal is a valuable natural resource, it is in very high demand both domestically and internationally.

It does go without saying that the federal government has placed significant restrictions on coal energy over the years. While this has downsized and slowed the industry some, it hasn't deterred the use of coal in energy production or the derivatives from separating its minerals to create other goods such as plastics, fertilizers, and needed medicines.

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Why Transloading Coal Makes Sense

Transloading coal to a barge

You might ask yourself the question, "why should I transload coal?" The answer is quite simple; coal is almost always purchased in large quantities with a need for consistent supply. This is because most industries, such as electrical power plants and other industries, comprise roughly 99.9% of all the uses for coal, totaling around 546 million short tons of coal.

With this statistic in mind, it suggests that pretty much all of the coal in the country is needed regularly, and, just like it was mentioned above, in bulk material form. This is where transloading comes in, the ability to ship large quantities quickly, efficiently, and at the best value. 

Also, utilizing multiple transport methods along the way helps open up flexibility by improving delivery timetables. Flexibility is crucial to any business that has a regularly needed supply. This adaptability reduces the chance of disruption and profit losses.

The Benefits of Transloading Coal

Transloading coal from dry land

There are numerous benefits to using a transload facility or transload service when transporting coal all over the country or shipping it internationally. The benefits of transloading can be summed up in four key areas. These areas of benefit are: 

  1. Sustainability
  2. Versatility
  3. Adaptability
  4. Cost-effectiveness

These benefits play a critical role in exactly why transloading exists in the first place. Businesses and supply chains do not have time for extended delivery times, breakdowns in transit due to narrow-minded shipping methodologies, or even the extreme costs of transporting goods using a single means of shipping.

The cost and efficiency of using multiple modes of transportation versus traditional truckload are massive in terms of bulk shipping daily. This efficiency comes directly in the form of "transport capacity" and how it relates to industry demand.

Domestic and international industries are interested in transport capacity that is large in scale and reliable. This concept of scale and reliability is where rail line access comes into play. Rail lines can carry much larger capacities per hopper car versus a single truckload and substantially reduce fuel costs.

Looking to ship and store items seamlessly?
Let Transload Services USA be your partner.
Get a quote

Get Started Transloading Your Coal with Transload USA

Our experts at Transload USA are ready and eager to help facilitate the transport of your coal today! We offer transloading services to help get your orders on the way in the fastest, most efficient, and cost-effective manner possible.

Our full suite of services includes:

Our mission is to meet your needs every time, on time, and with the added flexibility of an ever-changing marketplace. No job is too big for Transload USA. Our customer service is unmatched, and we can adapt to any and all situations. Contact us or call us today at (866) 757-1109 for expert advice at the best price.

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