Updated June 2023
In 2022, total production of marketable coal increased by 30 per cent from 2021 (see Table S7.1). As shown in Figure S7.1, subbituminous coal production declined in 2022 because three mines closed in 2021, as coal-fired power plants continued conversion to natural gas. Thermal and metallurgical coal production increased in 2022 as the Coal Valley and Grande Cache mines resumed operations in late 2021 after they were temporarily closed and suspended due to the pandemic in 2020.
Of the marketable coal produced in 2022,
- 36 per cent was subbituminous,
- 58 per cent was thermal bituminous, and
- 6 per cent was metallurgical bituminous.
Subbituminous coal no longer comprises the bulk of coal production in Alberta and accounts for 36 per cent of the total marketable coal production in 2022. Production of subbituminous coal decreased by 4 per cent in 2022 to 4.7 megatonnes (Mt). Several subbituminous coal mines have reduced production or ceased operations altogether as coal-fired power plants continued retooling their operations to use natural gas as a feedstock.
Forecast for 2023 to 2032
Production of subbituminous coal is expected to decline to nearly zero by 2024, several years ahead of the legislated deadline in 2030. Rising carbon costs have played a significant role in Alberta’s transition away from coal-fired power generation. This outlook incorporates the Alberta Electric System Operator’s (AESO) retirement schedule forecast, featured in its most recent long-term outlook, and reflects any recent retirement updates announced by operators.
Metallurgical Bituminous Coal
Production of marketable metallurgical bituminous coal (called coking coal) increased to 0.7 Mt in 2022. The Grande Cache mine resumed operations in late 2021 after it temporarily closed and was suspended amid uncertain market conditions and operational constraints during the pandemic.
Thermal Bituminous Coal
Production of marketable thermal bituminous coal (called steaming coal) increased by 51 per cent in 2022 to 7.6 Mt. The Coal Valley mine resumed operations in the second half of 2021 after it suspended operations due to the pandemic.
Forecast for 2023 to 2032
Going forward, coal projects will undergo a federal environmental impact assessment review and will not be considered in the forecast unless approval. The forecast considers the Government of Alberta’s announcement that the province will be “expanding restrictions on coal-related activities in the Eastern Slopes until effective land-use planning is completed for the area.” Despite several potential bituminous mines seeking regulatory approval, the projection for bituminous coal production remains relatively stable throughout the forecast period.
Table S7.2 lists the coal mines in Alberta and their marketable production in 2022.
Figure S7.2 shows Alberta’s coal mines and the remaining coal-fired power plants. Genesee is now the only coal-fired power plant remaining in Alberta. All other coal-fired power plants have either been converted to gas or decommissioned.