Coal is transported all around United States by train; according to figures almost 70% of coal in 2007 was transported around United States through railroad. Barges and trucks contribution for coal transportation is 11% while rest is delivered mainly by tramway, conveyor belt, or slurry pipeline.
Sometime coal is transported great distances. Such as, Powder River Basin coal is transported by rail to power plants as far away as Georgia. It travels a long way as far as the distance from Wyoming to Georgia.
To save the money from coal transportation costs there is a common way that using coal near the coal-mines. As soon as the coal is mined it’s delivered immediately to power plant through conveyor belt. Such plants are called “mine mouth” plants. The growing presence of mine mouth plants had eased by expanding use of long distance electricity transmission.
Before transportation of coal to a long distance it under goes a process of preparation to lower shipping costs and facilitate use in power plants. Crushing of coal and removing heavy, extraneous non-coal materials are included in coal preparation. If there is a sulfur contamination in the coal or any other impurity then it washed with a water or chemical, removing up to 40 percent of inorganic sulfur in the coal.
It’s not like that all type of coal is prepared in same way. Commonly Eastern coal is washed to meet environmental regulations, while low-sulfur Western coal typically is crushed and resized without being washed.
Unfortunately there is a drawback of coal washing, because the contaminants and non-coal material removed during washing have to go somewhere, so normally that results into large waste reservoirs. In 2002, almost 25% of the raw coal going into washing plants were left behind as waste.