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USGS Assesses Coal in the Illinois Basin
Released: 10/18/2002

Contact Information:
U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey
Office of Communication
119 National Center
Reston, VA 20192
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Phone: 703-648-4460



Coal provides over half of our nation’s electrical energy needs. To gain a better understanding of available energy resources, the USGS has recently completed an assessment of one of our nation’s most important coal producing regions, the Illinois Basin (an area covering Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky).

The resource assessment concludes that in the Illinois Basin there are significant resources of about 145 billion short tons of bituminous coal remaining in deposits that are greater than 42 inches thick. In 2000, the Illinois basin contributed about 87 million short tons of coal, used primarily toward the generation of electricity. A little more than a billion short tons of coal are mined each year in the United States.

Coal mining in the Illinois Basin began more than 100 years and historically, about 10.4 billion short tons of bituminous coal have been produced from this basin. Several years ago the Illinois Basin produced about 12% of the nation’s coal; now it produces less than 10%. While the Illinois Basin will continue to contribute to the overall percentage of coal used in the U.S., the amounts of coal mined will decline because of land-use or technological restrictions related to producing and burning coals with high sulfur content.

"A greater understanding of coal resources and coal quality allows resource managers to make informed decisions regarding the use of coal as an energy source," said USGS Director Charles Groat. "Resource assessments are an important component in developing environmentally sound ways to extract and use the Nation’s coal resources as part of an effective national energy policy".

In addition to evaluating energy production potential, coal resource assessments can be used to aid in the identification of areas with potential for coal-bed methane production, mine flooding, surface subsidence, and acid mine drainage.

The USGS conducted this assessment in partnership with the State geological survey agencies in Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky. The USGS studied four of the more than 30 different coals produced in the Illinois Basin.

The Illinois Basin is one of five major coal-producing regions of the U.S. being studied as part of the USGS National Coal Resource Assessment begun in 1995. Assessments for the Northern Rocky Mountains/Great Plains, Colorado Plateau and Appalachian regions were completed earlier.

Copies of the 2 CD-ROM publication of the study (USGS Professional Paper 1625-D, Resource Assessment of the Springfield, Herrin, Danville and Baker Coals in the Illinois Basin are available by contacting jrhatch@usgs.gov. Additional information is available at: http://energy.cr.usgs.gov/coal/nca/index.htm.


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