Short term coal production in West Virginia is likely to increase, according to a report released by the West Virginia University Bureau of Business and Economic Research. Those short term gains won’t off set overall production declines in the industry.
The annual report published by the Bureau of Business and Economic Research is titled “Coal Production in West Virginia.” It sets out both long term and short term outlooks in the industry.
The Summer 2017 report says statewide, coal production will reach an estimated 89 million tons in 2017 and remain in that range through the early 2020s. But a decade later, coal production will once again begin to dip in the state.
Nationally, West Virginia has seen more drastic declines in coal production than any other state in the country, but the report’s author, WVU Research and Assistant Professor Brian Lego, writes that West Virginia coal production is split between two regions which have seen very different results in recent years due to both national and international economic trends.
In northern West Virginia where steam coal is mined, production slightly increased between 2008 and 2016. During that same period though, coal production in southern West Virginia plunged by 61 percent. Mines in the region largely produce metallurgical coal, or coal used to make steel. Lego says steel production in the U.S. is expected to see an uptick through the end of 2018, contributing to that expected short term production increase.
The report also lays out the potential impacts on the industry as natural gas prices fluctuate.