LAXT boosts U.S. coal export capacity

LAXT boosts U.S. coal export capacity

The United States is the world’s second largest producer and exporter of coal, last year mining 1.06 billion t and exporting about 90 million t to more than 40 nations. Almost half of its exported coal was shipped to Canadian and European buyers, but only about 20% went to Asia Pacific countries, which comprise the world’s fastest growing market for thermal and metallurgical coal.

Over the next decade, Asian coal demand is expected to grow at a rate much higher than other regions of the globe, according to several forecasts. Coal utilization in Japan, Korea and Taiwan, for example, could increase by 55 million t per year (tpy) by 2005, and demand in India could rise by anywhere from 11 million to 25 million tpy in the same period. By 2005, industry experts predict that Asia may consume 30% more coal than the United States, the former Soviet Union, the Middle East and Africa combined.

For U.S. coal companies interested in expanding their Asian export sales, it’s been a tough market to crack. Western producers have had to face the disadvantages of long, expensive rail hauls from mine mouth to ocean terminals, congested port facilities and intense competition from abroad.

Although future competition from coal producers in Australia, Indonesia, South Africa and Colombia is expected to increase even further and Western rail routes won’t get any shorter, at least U.S. producers now can take advantage of vastly improved coal handling facilities at the Port of Los Angeles, the primary West Coast coal export terminal.

The Los Angeles Export Terminal (LAXT), a $180-million, 120-acre coal and petroleum coke receiving and shipping facility, opened last year and is capable of handling 9 million tpy of product, with expansion potential to 20 million tpy. Its 63-ft berth depth will accommodate vessels up to 160,000 dwt, and future plans call for increasing draft capacity to 72 ft, which will allow vessels up to 250,000 dwt to dock. LAXT’s improved facilities will also provide the means to reduce contamination problems, to blend various types of coals, to turn trains around quicker and to load ships faster.

State of art system

A major feature of the terminal is its 7,500-tph tandem railcar dumper and train positioner, which was designed, installed and commissioned by the bulk materials handling division of Svedala. This state-ofthe-art system is the primary method of receiving coal at LAXT, and it can handle train configurations ranging from 253,000lb, 12-ft 8-in.-high cars to the new, high– capacity 13 ft 4-in. tall cars weighing 315,000 lb fully loaded.

The system will unload a 12,000-t unit train in less than four hours and can handle between five and six trains per day. Combined with LAXT’s high-capacity shiploading facilities, oceangoing cargo vessels now can be fully loaded in two days, start to finish.

The Svedala car dumper features an adjustable-speed, controlled-torque drive system for smooth barrel rotation, segmented and bolted end ring gears, and a rolled-beam end ring design specially reinforced to comply with local earthquake loading requirements. The train positioner uses a rack-and-pinion style drive to synchronize DC motors to provide fully automatic indexing, return, and precise location of railcars for dumper operations.

This is the newest of almost 200 dumper/positioner installations made by the Svedala Bulk Materials Handling group, which includes McNally Wellman, the pioneer in rotary car dumpers. In fact, McNally Wellman’s first rotary-type type dumper is still operating, almost 55 years after its installation at a North Carolina power plant in 1923.

For Asian coal buyers interested in securing a reliable supply of low-sulfur western U.S. coal, LAXT’s startup offers the prospect of faster ship turnaround times, minimum demurrage delays, and lower shipping costs. For U.S. producers, it represents a major tool for achieving competitiveness in the hot Asian coal market.

Copyright Intertec Publishing Mar 1998

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