Consultant: International demand for Colorado coal likely to continue
International demand for Colorado coal is likely to continue, driven by higher air-quality demands, a Grand Junction energy consultant said Friday at the ninth Energy Forum and Expo at Two Rivers Convention Center.
Mines in Colorado and Utah provided some 40 million tons of coal in 2012, a fraction of the 890 million tons produced domestically, said Stephen J. Doyle, CEO of Doyle Trading Consultants, a firm with offices in Grand Junction and New York City.
Though a relatively small amount, the output from Colorado and Utah is in high demand because of its low sulfur and high British thermal unit content, Doyle said.
It’s particularly valuable to countries that have strong air-quality requirements, such as Germany, Doyle said, noting that Colorado coal has been shipped around the world.
Colorado coal also has been burned in locations as far-flung as Guatemala, Honduras, Italy, Mexico, the Netherlands and even Jamaica, he said.
Though coal is a frequent target of environmentalists, it’s still a valuable resource, especially when used to replace dirty fuels, Doyle said, like for the 1.2 billion people who use animal dung and wood for heating.
Coal, Doyle said, is far from being an afterthought.
“It’s going to help fuel the global economy,” Doyle said, “If we don’t muck it up.”
Natural gas, meanwhile, is likely to remain abundant, said John Felmy, chief economist of the American Petroleum Institute, noting that the recent spike to more than $6 per unit was the result of a “bloody cold winter.”
The lesson of that cold snap was that the nation lacks the infrastructure to move natural gas easily and efficiently to the places where it’s needed most.
And even with low prices relative to the boom years of 2007 and 2008, there has been no slowdown in the amount of exploratory drilling for natural gas, American Petroleum Instute’s Felmy said.
That suggests that “there is a whole lot of gas that could come on line that we haven’t seen yet,” Felmy said.