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Historical trends in American coal production and a possible future outlook
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Physics, Department of Physics and Astronomy, Global Energy Systems. (Global Energy Systems)ORCID iD: 0000-0002-6379-7104
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Physics, Department of Physics and Astronomy, Global Energy Systems. (Global Energy Systems)
2009 (English)In: International Journal of Coal Geology, ISSN 0166-5162, E-ISSN 1872-7840, Vol. 78, no 3, 201-216 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The United States has a vast supply of coal, with almost 30% of world reserves and more than 1600 Gt (short) as remaining coal resources. The US is also the world’s second largest coal producer after China and annually produces more than twice as much coal as India, the third largest producer.

The reserves are concentrated in a few states, giving them a major influence on future production. Historically many states have also shown a dramatic reduction in recoverable coal volumes and this has been closely investigated. Current recoverable estimates may also be too high, especially if further restrictions are imposed. The average calorific value of US coals has decreased from 29.2 MJ/kg in 1950 to 23.6 MJ/kg in 2007 as U.S. production moved to subbituminous western coals. This has also been examined in more detail.

This study also uses established analysis methods from oil and gas production forecasting, such as Hubbert linearization and logistic curves, to create some possible future outlooks for U.S. coal production. In one case, the production stabilizes at 1400 Mt annually and remains there until the end of the century, provided that Montana dramatically increases coal output. The second case, which ignores mining restrictions, forecasts a maximum production of 2500 Mt annually by the end of the century.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2009. Vol. 78, no 3, 201-216 p.
Keyword [en]
USA, future coal production, peak coal, coal reserves, logistic model
National Category
Physical Sciences Environmental Analysis and Construction Information Technology Other Earth and Related Environmental Sciences
Research subject
Physics with specialization in Global Energy Resources
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-100953DOI: 10.1016/j.coal.2009.03.002ISI: 000266178900003OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-100953DiVA: diva2:211402
Available from: 2009-04-14 Created: 2009-04-14 Last updated: 2017-12-13Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Coal and Oil: The Dark Monarchs of Global Energy: Understanding Supply and Extraction Patterns and their Importance for Future Production
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Coal and Oil: The Dark Monarchs of Global Energy: Understanding Supply and Extraction Patterns and their Importance for Future Production
2010 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The formation of modern society has been dominated by coal and oil, and together these two fossil fuels account for nearly two thirds of all primary energy used by mankind.  This makes future production a key question for future social development and this thesis attempts to answer whether it is possible to rely on an assumption of ever increasing production of coal and oil. Both coal and oil are finite resources, created over long time scales by geological processes. It is thus impossible to extract more fossil fuels than geologically available. In other words, there are limits to growth imposed by nature.

The concept of depletion and exhaustion of recoverable resources is a fundamental question for the future extraction of coal and oil. Historical experience shows that peaking is a well established phenomenon in production of various natural resources. Coal and oil are no exceptions, and historical data shows that easily exploitable resources are exhausted while more challenging deposits are left for the future.

For oil, depletion can also be tied directly to the physical laws governing fluid flows in reservoirs. Understanding and predicting behaviour of individual fields, in particularly giant fields, are essential for understanding future production. Based on comprehensive databases with reserve and production data for hundreds of oilfields, typical patterns were found. Alternatively, depletion can manifest itself indirectly through various mechanisms. This has been studied for coal.

Over 60% of the global crude oil production is derived from only around 330 giant oilfields, where many of them are becoming increasingly mature. The annual decline in existing oil production has been determined to be around 6% and it is unrealistic that this will be offset by new field developments, additional discoveries or unconventional oil. This implies that the peak of the oil age is here.

For coal a similar picture emerges, where 90% of the global coal production originates from only 6 countries. Some of them, such as the USA show signs of increasing maturity and exhaustion of the recoverable amounts. However, there is a greater uncertainty about the recoverable reserves and coal production may yield a global maximum somewhere between 2030 and 2060.

This analysis shows that the global production peaks of both oil and coal can be expected comparatively soon. This has significant consequences for the global energy supply and society, economy and environment. The results of this thesis indicate that these challenges should not be taken lightly.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 2010. 102 p.
Series
Digital Comprehensive Summaries of Uppsala Dissertations from the Faculty of Science and Technology, ISSN 1651-6214 ; 760
Keyword
oil production, coal production, depletion rate, forecasting, energy supply
National Category
Physical Sciences Other Earth and Related Environmental Sciences Environmental Analysis and Construction Information Technology Other Engineering and Technologies not elsewhere specified
Research subject
Physics with specialization in Global Energy Resources
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-129295 (URN)978-91-554-7863-6 (ISBN)
Public defence
2010-09-24, Polhemsalen, Lägerhyddsvägen 1, Ångströmlaboratoriet, 09:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2010-09-03 Created: 2010-08-10 Last updated: 2015-01-08Bibliographically approved

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