ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Midwest Energy expects record coal shipments

This shipping season is shaping up as a record year for coal flowing out of the Twin Ports. Midwest Energy Resources Co., operator of the largest coal terminal on the Great Lakes, loaded 17.9 million tons of coal onto lakers at its facility in Su...

566615+kingCOAL1115c_500px.jpg
A small mountain of Western coal is worked at the Midwest Energy Resources Company in Superior in this photo taken last May. Bob King / News Tribune

This shipping season is shaping up as a record year for coal flowing out of the Twin Ports.

Midwest Energy Resources Co., operator of the largest coal terminal on the Great Lakes, loaded 17.9 million tons of coal onto lakers at its facility in Superior during the first 10 months of 2008. That's 9.1 percent more coal than Midwest put on the water during the same period last year.

Midwest President Fred Shusterich expects the facility to top 23 million tons in coal shipments this season, blowing by its previous record of 21.8 million tons, set in 2006.

"If things hold, this should be a good year for us," he said.

"I hate to see taconite shipments taking a beating because of the slowdown in the steel industry, but the truth is it should help us stay active," said Shusterich, explaining that when there's less competition for vessels, it's easier for Midwest to move coal to market.

ADVERTISEMENT

Midwest Energy Resources Co. is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Detroit Edison Co. It receives low-sulfur western coal via rail and loads it onto ships that deliver it downlake to power plants and industrial customers.

"Being part of a utility, MERC seems to enjoy a fairly steady stream of business," said Adele Yorde, public relations manager for the Duluth Seaway Port Authority. She referred to Midwest's growth as "encouraging," especially in light of decreased shipments of iron ore pellets and aggregate construction materials since the recent economic downturn.

Yorde expressed optimism that Midwest's business will hold strong through the end of the year, despite an uneven economy.

"With winter weather setting in, I wouldn't think we would see their business decline during the last quarter of this year," she said.

Shusterich said Midwest hasn't experienced some of the same kind of immediate ill effects as other businesses have because of the slowing economy. But he noted that if steelmakers continue to idle furnaces, and U.S. automakers are forced to curtail operations, it could have a significant impact on demand for coal and coal-generated electricity in the months to come.

For his part, Shusterich is hoping for a quick economic recovery. Since 2001, Midwest has invested more than $6 million in its Superior operations, including the $3 million installation of a new rotary railcar unloader this past year. The facility is now permitted to handle up to 25.5 million tons of coal per year, and Shusterich would like to see that capacity put to good use.

Related Topics: GREAT LAKESSHIPPING
Peter Passi covers city government for the Duluth News Tribune. He joined the paper in April 2000, initially as a business reporter but has worked a number of beats through the years.
What To Read Next
Recently sold properties from St. Louis County.
Bankruptcy information gathered from cases filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Duluth.
The business owners hope to offer a hub for outdoor enthusiasts with their newest venture.
Artificial intelligence can now act as an artist or a writer. Does that mean AI is ready to play doctor? Many institutions, including Mayo Clinic, believe that AI is ready to become a useful tool.