As I drove from Denver to Sheridan, Wyoming this weekend, two things caught my eye from the highway:
1. Coal: I passed not one, but two trains pulling railcars filled to the brim with coal. It has been awhile since I have seen a full coal train on the move, let alone two within hours of each other!
2. Oil: More derricks are springing up.
Actually, I should say three things caught my eye – the third is that Wyoming is greener than I have seen in many years. The grasses are lush and vibrant, transforming the prairies and hills.
Many may not be aware that Wyoming has been the nation’s leading coal producer since 1986. For more excellent information about Wyoming’s coal production, check out the Wyoming Mining Association’s website, which can be found here.
The coal in the Powder is truly a one of a kind commodity. Wyoming’s Powder River Basin, located in the northeast corner of the state, is known not only for the large size of its mines, but the unique features of its primary commodity. Because thick coal seams lay relatively close to the surface, the Powder lends to cost effective coal recovery operations, keeping costs lower. Further, the coal from the geologic formation there is lower in sulfur, making it cleaner when burned.
Of the roughly 5,500 employees reportedly working in the coal industry across Wyoming, more than 4,500 of them work in the Powder. Coal has always been a big part of Wyoming’ economy, and the commodity’s future is very volatile at this point.
Oil production is on the rise in the Cowboy state. In fact, according to a recent article published by Wyoming Public Media, which can be found here, oil production in Wyoming has risen to its highest level in 25 years.
In short, increases in the energy sector are visually apparent in Wyoming – only time can tell what the future is for Powder River coal and what lies ahead for the oil produced in the Cowboy State. Stay tuned!