Feedsee Transportation : Coal Transportation : Record trainloads of coal moving to nation's utilities as railway set performance records
In 2006, with winter energy needs nearing their peak, Union Pacific was moving record trainloads of coal from Wyoming's Southern Powder River Basin and coal-producing mines in Colorado and Utah. During November of that year, Union Pacific moved twenty million tons of coal from there, an increase of nearly eight percent over the year before. Union Pacific also set train size records during the months of October and November. Trains moving coal averaged an increase of two hundred tons over 2005's annual average. A new wheel-changing process in Nebraska helped the railway achieve the increased tonnage record. Wheels were changed without removing cars from a train, saving handling and processing time. The enhancement increased train tonnage by more than 750,000 tons in 2007 with no additional train starts.
Here are a few reasons that highlight the importance of rail in moving coal:
- Volume Capacity: Trains have a large carrying capacity and can transport large amounts of coal in a single journey. This efficiency makes rail an ideal mode of transportation for bulky commodities like coal.
- Long-Distance Transport: Trains are especially important for long-distance transport of coal from mines to power plants or ports for export. They can cover hundreds or even thousands of miles, often more efficiently and economically than other forms of transport.
- Economic Viability: On a per ton-mile basis, rail transportation is often more economical than road transport, especially for heavy, low-value commodities such as coal. Lower transportation costs can make coal a more competitive energy source.
- Environmental Impact: While trains do emit greenhouse gases, they are generally considered more energy-efficient and less polluting than truck transport, particularly for long distances and heavy loads.
- Reliability: Rail systems often provide a more reliable means of transport compared to other options. They are less susceptible to traffic congestion and adverse weather conditions, which can disrupt road transport.
- Infrastructure: Extensive rail networks already exist in many of the world's major coal-producing and coal-consuming regions. This infrastructure makes rail an accessible and practical choice for coal transport.
In the United States, rail has been the dominant mode of transportation for coal. However, the role of rail in coal transport may change in the future depending on shifts in energy policy, technological advancements, and the move towards renewable energy sources.