The Power of Coal


Coal is the most widely used and abundant long-term fuel supply for power plants in the United States. Geologists estimate that the country has enough recoverable coal to meet its current energy needs for 250 years. Tri-State has tapped into this vast resource to power a portion of its electricity generating facilities. If you are a student studying to be a geologist, you often need to write essays and research papers about minerals in the world. The best custom writing service, which has many professional writers who write quality and quickly, can help you with this.

The association has ownership and/or operation interests in five major coal-fired power plants -- the Craig, Nucla, Laramie River, Escalante and Springerville stations -- that account for approximately 70 percent of its total energy resources. In addition, Tri-State receives an allocation of hydropower from the Western Area Power Administration and relies on natural gas and oil-fired generation for peaking power from plants it operates in Colorado and New Mexico.

A large portion of the coal that fires Tri-State's generating stations comes from several sources: Powder River Basin mines, near Gillette, Wyo.; Trapper Mine, near Craig in northwestern Colorado; New Horizon Mine, at Nucla in southwestern Colorado; and Lee Ranch Mine, about 80 miles west of Albuquerque, N.M.  These mines supply fuel to the Laramie River, Craig, Nucla and Escalante stations, respectively, which, in turn, provide electricity to millions of people in the West.

Northern Wyoming's Powder River Basin is home to one of the richest sub-bituminous coal beds in the world. Because of this coal's low sulfur content, compared to coal mined in other regions, it burns cleaner and is in high demand by electric utilities throughout the United States.

Powder River coal is contracted by Western Fuels Association, a Denver-based fuel supply cooperative for consumer-owned utilities. Western Fuels (of which Tri-State is a founding member), in turn, contracts the coal that is delivered by rail to Laramie River Station.

Dry Fork Mine provides approximately 3 million tons of coal to Laramie River Station, as well as delivering to the Kansas City Board of Public Utilities (1 million tons annually) and Basin Electric's Leland Olds Station (250,000 tons annually).  It also makes some spot market sales to the Lower Colorado River Power Authority.

At Colorado’s Craig Station, Trapper Mine supplies about half of the coal burned at Units 1 and 2, and is operated by Trapper Mining Inc. As a "mine-mouth" operation (the generating station is located next to the mine), coal transportation costs from Trapper are minimized. This results in overall lower power production costs.  The balance of the coal used at Craig Station is delivered by rail from Colowyo Mine located about 30 miles from the plant.

Western Fuels-Colorado administers fuel contracts between Colowyo Coal Company and the Craig Station owners.  The Colowyo Mine supplies supplemental fuel to Craig Station Units 1 and 2 and the majority of the coal for Unit 3.

Fuel for Nucla Station is derived from New Horizon Mine, located in Nucla, Colo, which is primarily owned and operated by Western-Fuels-Colorado.  New Horizon delivered its first coal to the station in July 1993 and continues to be the sole fuel source to the plant.

Escalante Station receives its coal from Lee Ranch Mine, which is located about 47 miles northeast of the plant.  A contract between the mine and Tri-State is managed through Western Fuels Association.

Next Section: How Coal is Mined