Technology Assessment Division

Coal and Lignite in Louisiana


by Alan A. Troy, P.E.

Interest in developing new projects involving coal and lignite as boiler fuel in Louisiana has waned since the shortages and high prices of oil and gas in the 1970's disappeared. Used almost exclusively for the generation of electricity, consumption of coal and lignite in Louisiana and the nation has barely increased since 1988 (See table and graph on back) as electricity demand has lagged. In Louisiana this trend is expected to continue through the end of the century.

The bulk of coal consumed in Louisiana by non-utilities is by industrial plants for cogeneration of electricity and process steam. Coal consumption for cogeneration in 1991 was 559,000 tons.

Atlanta-based Royal Oak Enterprises has announced the company will open a mine and build a plant in Red River Parish to make charcoal from lignite. At maximum capacity the plant will use 240,000 tons/year of lignite to make 80,000 tons/year of charcoal briquettes.

The New Orleans Customs District was second in the nation in handling coal exports in 1991. The coal came from mines in seven midwestern and eastern states. The Baton Rouge port's coal loading/monitoring facility is among the most modern in the nation. At midstream the facility can transfer, blend, sample, and cool export coal at a rate of 1,800 tons per hour.

The federal Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 (CAAA) are a major influence on the choice of fuels for Louisiana electric generating plants. Air pollutant emissions of existing coal and lignite-fired plants are below the limits prescribed by the CAAA. But the limits for new plants are more stringent and will affect the choice of fuels when new plants are needed. New clean coal technologies are being introduced and continually improved so coal and lignite can meet the CAAA standards. Coal gasification and circulating fluidized bed combustion generating plants with emissions that are well below the CAAA limits are already in operation in Louisiana.

The Energy Policy Act of 1992 could also affect the choice of fuels used in new power plants constructed in Louisiana. The Act encourages competition in energy markets by making it easier for unregulated independent power producers to own and invest in power projects. While the new plants that independent power producers are building in other parts of the country do include some coal-fired ones, the trend seems to be more toward gas-fired combined cycle plants.

Proposed legislation by the Clinton administration for a new energy tax is now being debated in Congress. Its provisions have not yet been put in final form so it is not possible to assess the ultimate impact on coal and lignite use.

The above information was obtained from DENR's May 1993 Coal and Lignite in Louisiana report, which is now available. Other information in the report includes a historical perspective on the development of coal and lignite and production and consumption statistics. If you would like a copy of the complete report, please write to:

Alan A. Troy, P.E., Senior Energy Engineer
Technology Assessment Division
Louisiana Department of Energy and Natural Resources
P.O. Box 94396
Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70804-9396