The St. Clairsville, Ohio-based company expected to close 2014 with about 65 million tons of output for the year, although final numbers were not yet available in January.
The New Era and New Future underground mines that make up the Galatia complex operated in Saline County, Illinois, by Murray subsidiary American Coal Co. enjoyed a strong production year in 2014 and more of the same is anticipated for 2015, according to Gary Broadbent, Murray Energy assistant general counsel and media director.
New Era turned out 5.5 million tons and New Future about 5.7 million tons in 2014, for a total of more than 11.2 million tons, easily eclipsing their combined 2013 total of 9.8 million tons, federal Mine Safety and Health Administration figures show. A further increase is possible this year, Broadbent said.
“We expect The American Coal Co. to produce approximately 11.6 million tons of high-quality bituminous coal in 2015,” he said in late January. Early this year, Lakeland, Florida, awarded AmCoal what is thought to be its first coal supply contract with the city-owned electric utility to supply high-sulfur Illinois Basin coal from New Era and New Future. Details of the agreement were not available in late January.
Robert E. Murray, the company’s chairman, president and CEO, has railed for several years against the Obama administration’s “war on coal” that has resulted in a succession of stringent pollution rules by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) targeting coal. ICF International, a Fairfax, Virginia, consulting firm, is projecting 62 GW of coal generating unit retirements in 2015-2016 in the U.S., mainly because of new EPA regulations such as the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards rule that takes effect in April. Against this daunting backdrop, Murray Energy expects that coal markets “will continue to be severely depressed in 2015 and beyond,” Broadbent said.
Nevertheless, Murray Energy plans to modestly boost production this year. Of the projected 66.3 million tons for 2015, approximately 38 million tons will be mined at Murray American Energy operations in West Virginia, he noted. Those operations include the McElroy, Shoemaker, Blacksville, Loveridge and Robinson Run underground mines acquired by Murray Energy, the fifth-largest coal producer in the nation, from Consol Energy in late 2013. All five mines since have been renamed by Murray Energy.
In early 2015, Ohio Valley Coal Co., another Murray Energy subsidiary, was in the midst of a major longwall move at its Powhatan No. 6 mine in Belmont County, Ohio. The relocation, scheduled for completion early this year, will allow Powhatan to access additional coal reserves. Powhatan is expected to produce about 6.6 million tons in 2015 after extracting nearly 4.7 million tons in 2014.
Broadbent said Murray Energy also is in the process of building a new coal preparation plant at its Ohio County Coal Co. mine, formerly known as Shoemaker, in Marshall County, West Virginia. The project is aimed at improving the plant’s efficiency and coal processing capacity, allowing the facility to process up to 1,800 tons an hour, a 38% increase from the existing feed rate.
The approximately $45 million project is scheduled to be fully operational in May.
“We are also constructing new air and supply shafts and surface facilities, building additional tow boats, and have commissioned our fourth equipment manufacturing facility,” Broadbent said.
Altogether, Murray Energy operates 13 active mines at 12 mining complexes in Northern Appalachia, the Illinois Basin and the Uintah basin in Utah.