A total of 138 prep plants process bituminous coal in the U.S.

Total plant population shrinks with consolidation and reclamation

by steve fiscor, editor-in-chief

This year, the Coal Age 2020 Prep Plant Census reports a total of 138 preparation plants processing bituminous coal, which is 13 fewer than 2019. One new plant was added to the census, Rosebud Mining’s Crooked Creek prep plant in Pennsylvania, and 14 idled plants were torn down and removed. The total population is 230, which includes 72 bituminous plants sitting idle and 20 anthracite breakers in Pennsylvania. Knowing that some may reopen and that permits in some states remain active, Coal Age lists prep plants in the census until they are scrapped.

West Virginia remains the industry leader with 63 plants, followed by Kentucky (58), Pennsylvania (37), Virginia (18) and Indiana (13).

The biggest change to this year’s census was name changes. With Murray Energy emerging from bankruptcy as American Consolidated Natural Resources (ACNR), many of the mines have new operating companies. Collectively, the former ACNR Chairman Robert E. Murray controlled 18 prep plants (15 operating and three idle). The Concord prep plant in Alabama, which was operated by Murray Metallurgical Holdings, is now operated by Crimson Oak Grove. Murray Metallurgical Holdings sold the Katie prep plant in West Virginia to Blackhawk Mining. The former Armstrong properties, which were renamed Murray Kentucky Energy last year, have been combined with KenAmerican Resources under Muhlenberg County Resources. In Ohio, the Century prep plant is now operated by Belmont County Coal Resources. The rest of the active prep plants in West Virginia and Utah along with idled properties in Pennsylvania and Illinois are operated by ACNR.

Arch Coal is now Arch Resources. Xinergy emerged from bankruptcy as White Forest Resources and it operates two prep plants in West Virginia, South Fork (met coal) and Raven Crest (thermal). Cleveland Cliffs purchased the Black Wolf and Eckman plants in West Virginia from ArcelorMittal. Peabody Energy consolidated production in Indiana to two mines, Bear Run and Francisco. The Somerville Central, Somerville North and Wild Boar prep plants were removed.

According to the 2020 Prep Plant Census, Blackhawk Mining operates the most prep plants (17), followed by Arch Resources (15), Alliance
Resource Partners (14), Contura Energy (14), Bluestone Resources (13), American Resources (9), ACNR (8) and Rosebud Mining (7). Contura reported two major prep plant upgrades in 2019, one at the McClure River prep plant in Virginia and another at the Marfork plant in West Virginia.

Rosebud Mining commissioned the Crooked Creek prep plant in Pennsylvania earlier this year. The heavy-media plant has a raw feed capacity of 400 tons per hour. The plant uses a heavy-media cyclone, forth flotation and spirals to produce a low-sulfur product with 7.5%-8.5% ash. The PLC-controlled plant employs centrifugal dryers and an ash analyzer.

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