Sightline is publishing a new research memo today that documents the facts about Canada’s coal exporting capacity. The memo finds that ports in British Columbia do not have sufficient capacity to handle the volumes of coal planned for Washington ports.
The state coal lobby claims that US coal exports will simply shift to BC if Washington doesn’t build its own export facilities. State officials, including even Governor Gregoire, have repeated this error. The governor said recently: “Let there be no mistake, Wyoming and Montana are going to extract their coal and they’re going to export it. The question is, does it go through Canada or does it go through Washington?”
Yet the numbers tell a different story. The truth is that even if BC’s coal ports were to devote all of their planned capacity expansions to shipping solely US coal, they could still handle only a small fraction of the coal planned for Cherry Point and Longview.
The memo also provides evidence that Puget Sound communities like Bellingham are not pre-destined to experience large numbers of coal trains. The two coal ports in southern BC could handle at most one-quarter of the volume of coal planned for export from Cherry Point, and probably much less than that.
Read the full research memo here: Coal Exports From Canada.
Update 8/16/11: In a Bellingham Herald article, rail expert Bruce Agnew agrees:
According to Agnew’s statistics, some increase in [coal] exports from Canadian terminals is in the works, but those increases won’t add up to even half the nearly 50 million tons per year that could be shipped via Gateway Pacific. He also noted that Canadian coal producers want the added capacity at Canadian ports for themselves.
BTW, Agnew says “half” because he’s apparently counting the port at Prince Rupert in northern British Columbia to make his comparison. In my blog post I say “one-quarter” because for the purposes of evaluating coal train impacts on Bellingham, I’m counting only the Westshore and Neptune terminals in southern BC. (Coal bound for Prince Rupert is likely to travel a different route.)
The point is, Agnew agrees with me that Canadian coal export facilities, even if expanded, cannot come close to handling the volumes planned for Cherry Point, and certainly not the volumes planned for other locations in Washington or Oregon.
Before I commented on this I had to make a couple calls and talk to people that work at both Westshore and Neptune Terminals. The numbers your using are wrong, the 2009 numbers that your quoting was before both terminal expansions were finished. These two terminal expansions have increased tonnage by almost 10 million tons, and those increases are not for Canadian coal exports. Cloud Peak Energy is the only coal company exporting coal of any significants, there has been a few train loads over the last three years from Utah but most everything else has been shipped by Cloud Peak. Cloud Peak also signed a new contract that starts in 2013 that will be over twice that’s currently being exported, (3.3 million tons for last year, and this year will be about 3.7 million). Also there talks with Teck Resources and one of the two east coast terminals to ship the European export coal there instead of Westshore or Neptune, that would free up another 2-5 million tons. I’ll say this as politicaly correct as I can, cUZ coal is going to continue to be exported out of Canada, and that amount will at least triple in the next 18 months.
Eric de Place
Thanks for commenting. I hope I didn’t give the impression that I made up these numbers myself. The export volumes and capacity figures are the most recent available from industry sources, as follows:
BC Ministry of Energy, Mines, and Petroleum Resources, see page 18 here: http://www.em.gov.bc.ca/Mining/investors/Documents/Coal15Feb2010web.pdf. Those figures are corroborated by Westshore’s website: http://www.westshore.com/background.html, as well as by Port Metro Vancouver’s 2010 statistics overview: http://www.portmetrovancouver.com/Libraries/ABOUT_Facts_Stats/Port_Metro_Vancouver_2010_Statistics_Overview.sflb.ashx.
BC Ministry of Energy, Mines, and Petroleum Resources, see page 17 here: http://www.em.gov.bc.ca/Mining/investors/Documents/Coal15Feb2010web.pdf. Those figures are corroborated by a May 2011 press release from Neptune, here: http://www.neptuneterminals.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/Neptune-Stacker-Reclaimer-Release-May-18.pdf, as well as by Port Metro Vancouver’s 2010 statistics overview: http://www.portmetrovancouver.com/Libraries/ABOUT_Facts_Stats/Port_Metro_Vancouver_2010_Statistics_Overview.sflb.ashx.
I’m aware of Cloud Peak’s contract, but of course 3.3m tons is just a tiny fraction of the volumes planned for Washington ports and it doesn’t kick in for another 1.5 years.
If you can provide documentation that any of the figures I’ve used are incorrect, I’d be happy to consider the evidence and revise.
No Ben the numbers are pretty much what I said, though if Cloud Peak keeps shipping the way they have the first half the year they’ll reach just short of 7mil tons. Also found out that the BNSF is in talks with a local tribe that owns land next to Westshore to build a ground storage facility. The source that I have work at Westshore, and would enable the BNSF to ship an additional 8-12 million tons a year..
My Dad Was a Miner in Springhill N.S> Back in the Late 50’s –He Often Told me that There were Hundreds /1000’s Of tons of Coal beneath the Land in Nova Scotia !! Is there Any Way of Mining this Coal To Add to Canada’s Exports ??