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Houston — Union Pacific's coal and coke volumes dipped 3% in the first quarter compared with the year-ago quarter due to contract changes and lower natural gas prices, the railroad said in its first quarter earnings issued Thursday.

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Omaha, Nebraska-based UP said gas prices were 7% lower in Q1 compared with the year-ago quarter, despite inventories at plants that burn Powder River Basin coal that continue to track below the five-year average.

Based on Surface Transportation Board data, the railroad reported 283,347 coal carloads in Q1, compared with roughly 292,000 carloads in the year-ago quarter.

In Q1, PRB volumes made up 55% of the company's energy portfolio, with 15% of volumes from "other coal." Frac sand (16%) and petroleum, LPG and renewables volumes made up the remaining 14%. The railroad no longer reports stand-alone volume and revenue metrics for its coal franchise.

"We expect coal to continue to experience headwinds in the second quarter with natural gas prices," said Chief Marketing Officer Elizabeth Whited during Thursday's analyst call.

The railroad reported net income of $1.31 billion in the first quarter, up 22% from the year-ago quarter.

--Andrew Moore,

--Edited by Derek Sands,