Houston — Powder River Basin coal production totaled 334.4 million st in 2017, up 7.2% from 2016, according to recently posted US Mine Safety and Health Administration data.
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Production in 2016 declined dramatically, dropping more than 21% as cheap natural gas fomented a considerable amount of coal-to-gas switching.
With higher gas prices in 2017, coal production increased, though still remains well below its peak of 490 million st in 2008.
The PRB 8,800 Btu/lb mines -- Cloud Peak Energy's Antelope mine, Arch Coal's Black Thunder mine and Peabody Energy's North Antelope/Rochelle mine -- produced 200.6 million st in 2017, up 5.3% from 2016.
Production from PRB 8,400 Btu/lb mines totaled 106.6 million st, up 8.8% from 2016.
The basin's biggest mine remains Peabody's North Antelope/Rochelle mine, which produced 101.6 million st, up 9.4% from 2016. The annual total was roughly 13.2% of all the coal mined in the US in 2017.
Also of note, production increased significantly on a year-over-year basis from the few mines that ship coal for export.
Cloud Peak's Spring Creek mine produced 12.7 million st in 2017, up 24.2% from 2016, while Lighthouse Resources' Decker mine produced 4.2 million st, up nearly 30% from 2016. Both mines are in Montana.
In addition, Signal Peak, another export mine in Montana that Platts excludes from the PRB, produced 5.9 million st in 2017, up 4.9% from 2016.
In the fourth quarter of 2017, the basin's production totaled 83.36 million st, down 8.6% from the previous quarter and down 6.1% from the year-ago quarter. It was the lowest fourth quarter total of the last five years.