CASPER - It appears that Wyoming has set another record for coal production in 2008.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates that Wyoming mines produced 467.4 million tons of coal. The estimates will be revised when final production figures are reported.
Wyoming is the leading coal-producing state in the nation and accounts for nearly 40 percent of the nation's coal supply. In 2007, the state produced about 453 million tons, according to the EIA.
Overall U.S. coal production was up by about 2 percent on a slight increase in electrical demand and an increase in U.S. coal exports early in the year.
But after more than 10 consecutive years of setting a production record, coal production in Wyoming could level off this year. Peabody Energy, the biggest producer of coal in Wyoming, has announced it plans to trim its Powder River Basin coal production by 10 million tons this year because of the recession and weakening global demand.
Still, a projected stabilization of statewide coal production in 2009 doesn't alarm industry leaders. Energy officials still expect that coal will continue to increase its share of the U.S. electrical generation market over the next two decades.
"I think for Wyoming coal, we're going to continue very strong for a number of years because we're probably the best provider of affordable, reliable coal for energy. But certainly this recession is going to have an impact on everyone," said Marion Loomis, executive director of the Wyoming Mining Association.
Total U.S. coal production is expected to fall 2.6 percent in 2009, based on a decline in exports and a decline in industrial consumption, such as coking coal for the production of steel.