United States and coal
|This article is part of the Global Energy Monitor coverage of coal and power industry data|
The United States coal resource base is the largest in the world. According to expert reports commissioned by the World Energy Council in 2011, there is a proved amount in place of some 442 billion tonnes (based on the Energy Information Administration’s ‘Demonstrated Reserve Base’). This total is comprised of 241.6 billion tonnes of bituminous coal (including anthracite) with a maximum deposit depth of 671 m and minimum seam thickness of 0.25 m; 161.8 billion tonnes of sub-bituminous (at up to 305 m depth and 1.52 m minimum seam thickness) and 39.0 billion tonnes of lignite (at up to 61 m depth and 0.76 m minimum seam thickness).
The reported proved recoverable reserves amount to 237.3 billion tonnes, equivalent to about 28% of the global total. They comprise 108.5 billion tonnes of bituminous coal (including anthracite), 98.6 billion tonnes of sub-bituminous and 30.2 billion tonnes of lignite. The overall ratio of proved recoverable reserves to the proved amount in place is 0.54. 
WEC Member Committee reports enormous quantities of coal as inferred resources, being the difference between Remaining Identified Resources and the Demonstrated Reserve Base: in total these come to well over a trillion tonnes, composed of 418 billion tonnes of bituminous, 268 billion sub-bituminous and 391 billion lignite. These estimates are derived from a US Department of the Interior study of coal resources as at 1 January 1974, but are regarded as still providing valid indications of the magnitude of the USA’s additional coal resources. Assuming a similar recovery ratio for such resources as for those reported as proved, the US Member Committee estimates the recoverable portion as amounting to some 653 billion tonnes, comprised of 188 bituminous, 163 sub-bituminous and 302 lignite.
Enormous additional (hypothetical) coal resources are also reported. The amounts involved comprise 698 billion tonnes of bituminous coal, 1 036 billion tonnes of sub-bituminous and 296 billion tonnes of lignite, giving a total of some 2 trillion tonnes.
|Category||Reserve Classification||Quantity||Units||Data Year|
|BGR Estimate||Reserves||249,537||million tonnes||2019|
|BGR Estimate||Resources||7,827,558||million tonnes||2019|
|Geological Survey||Reserves||228,611||million tonnes||2020|
|Geological Survey||Resources||429,098||million tonnes||2020|
|Commercial Reporting||Reserves||million tonnes|
|Commercial Reporting||Resources||million tonnes|
In 2019, the United States produced 640.8 million tonnes. U.S. coal production totaled over a billion tonnes in the mid-2000s, with peak output in 2010:
- 1.17 billion short tons in 2008
- 1.074 billion tons in 2009
- 1.084 billion tons in 2010
- 1.08 billion tons in 2011
For more information on employment in the coal sector, see Coal and jobs in the United States.
To find state-by-state information on existing coal plants, proposed coal plants, mines, citizen groups working on coal issues, power companies and agencies, click on the map below.
To see a nationwide list of over 600 coal plants in the United States, click here. To see a listing of coal plants in a particular state, click on the map:
For more detailed information, visit the U.S. coal exports page and Coal exports from ports on the west coast of Canada and the United States.
In 2007, the United States exported almost 60 million tons of coal. One industry analyst estimated that the amount would rise to 80-90 million tons in 2008 and 100 million tons in 2009. Through June of this 2008, producers sent 40.4 million tons overseas, a 57 percent increase over the same period in 2007.
In May 2011, Reuters reported that total U.S. coal exports could amount to around 100 million tons (91 million tons) in 2011, according to analysts, leaving only Australia and Indonesia above the U.S. in world coal export rankings, and putting the U.S. above Russia, Colombia and South Africa.
- International Energy Agency, "Coal in United States in 2005", International Energy Agency website, accessed June 2008.
- National Mining Association 1999-2004
- National Mining Association 2006 Coal Producer Survey • May 2007,
- Energy Information Administration, Major US Coal Mines data 2006: Next data update September 2008
- U.S. Geological Survey, Coal Combustion Products Statistics and Information Links to statistical reports 1996-2002 (now discontinued)
- "The Changing Structure of the Electric Power Industry 2000, An Update," U.S. Energy Information Administration, October 2000
- Current statistics, news items, documents and photos of coal mining in the US at CoalDiver
Articles and Resources
- BGR Energy Study 2019 - Data and Developments in German and Global Energy Supplies (23), Hannover: Germany, 2019.
- Energy Resources: Coal, World Energy Council, Country Notes, 2013.
- US Energy Information Agency, Coal Reserves, 2020.
- "Coal Production, 1949-2010" EIA, accessed January 2012.
- Lee Buchsbaum, "New coal economics," EnergyBiz Insider, December 24, 2008
- Bruce Nichols, "Analysis: U.S. to be a top coal exporter again, thanks to Asia" Reuters, May 12, 2011.