Coal Systems Contacts

Richard Carroll


Marcella McIntyre-Redden


Coal Systems

Coal has been mined commercially in 21 northern Alabama counties for more than 150 years. Ranking 14th in the United States, Alabama routinely produces over 20 million short tons of coal each year. About two-thirds of Alabama's coal is mined in deep underground mines, with the remainder coming from surface mines.

Our use of coal statewide has risen to more than 30 million short tons annually. We primarily use coal to produce electricity. Coal is also used to make coke which is part of the steel-making process. In Alabama, over 70% of all electricity generated is produced at coal-fueled steam plants. Annually the total value of coal produced in Alabama exceeds $1 billion.
Geologists at the Survey are currently evaluating the distribution and quality of deep coal resources in the Black Warrior basin. Identifying prospective areas for future development will aid Alabama's mining industry. Coal geologists recently mapped the resources of the Cahaba coalfield and are currently mapping the Warrior coalfield. All coal data become part of the National Coal Resources Data System (NCRDS), a comprehensive computerized database of coal information. Statistics in this database and an extensive archive of reports, maps, and analyses of Alabama coal are available at the Survey for public use.

Coalbed Methane
Coalbed methane is natural gas that is derived and produced from coal seams. The first coalbed methane well in Alabama was drilled in 1980 and the industry continues to grow.  Coalbed methane is produced in Shelby, Tuscaloosa, Jefferson, Bibb, Fayette, and Walker Counties from over 4,000 wells, primarily in the Black Warrior basin. Methane is produced from up to 10 coal zones in the upper Pottsville Formation.


Survey geologists study the coalbed methane reserves in the Black Warrior basin, Cahaba coal basin, and Coosa coal basin and the use of carbon dioxide to enhance methane production in conjunction with carbon sequestration research. These studies help identify new areas for development and help the industry produce gas more efficiently and practically.

Coalbed methane production figures are available from the OGB.  Maps and reports on coal and coalbed methane resources are available for public use from the Geological Survey.