Ask a trail guide: How much coal does Kodak burn?

Dec 6, 2010

Kodak has its own power plant.

It's part of the labyrinthine Eastman Business Park, located here, about four miles northwest of downtown Rochester.

It runs on coal.

Recently, a Community Cinema event at WXXI featured Deep Down, a documentary about coal mining in eastern Kentucky. After the screening an audience member left us a question about the face of king coal here in the Rochester area:

How much coal does the Kodak plant use, and where does it come from? Does Kodak burn mountaintop removal coal?

We went to the source to dig up some answers.

Here they are in list form, all according to Kodak spokesman Chris Veronda:

  1. How much? 390,000 tons this year.
  2. Where from? Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
  3. What about coal mined through mountaintop removal? No.

Now for some explanation.

Power generation has long been an important part of operations at Eastman Business Park. (The sprawling industrial complex was known as Kodak Park until 2008.)

In many respects, Kodak Park is a city unto itself. It currently covers over 1,100 acres, has more than 100 manufacturing buildings and encompasses 30 miles of roads. It has its own railroad, fire department, sewer system and water treatment facility.

By any measure, it's big. And it used to be bigger.

Spokesman Veronda says it remains the largest photographic product manufacturing facility in the world. He also says it probably still holds the title for the largest industrial complex in the northeast.

As such, running the behemoth requires a lot of power. So the park makes its own.

That's where coal comes in.

Currently Eastman Business Park has one coal-fired power plant on-site. But until 2006 it operated two.

The current plant generates upwards of 75 megawatts of power, enough to run about 80,000 homes if it was pumped into the grid. Veronda says the plant makes almost, but not all, the electricity used at Eastman Business Park: they buy roughly an additional 10 percent.

However, Kodak's high-efficiency plant does more than produce electricity. According to Veronda, the steam it generates is hugely important. The steam drives industrial processes and large scale refrigeration machines.

To fire the plant, coal is shipped in via train on a regular basis. This year the Kodak power plant will burn 390,000 tons of coal. That's more than 3,500 rail cars of the stuff. At about 50 feet each, that's a 33-mile-long train of coal each year.

But, as you'd imagine, Kodak uses much less coal than it once did. Veronda says the current figure is down by more than a third compared to 2006. That was the last year two coal plants were in use.

Kodak has since trumpeted significant environmental gains. Veronda says CO2 emissions are down 42 percent compared to 2002 levels.

As for where exactly Kodak's coal is from, Veronda won't say. "Mines in the lower Allegheny region in Pennsylvania and West Virginia" is as specific as Kodak will get.

Veronda says the company sources its coal responsibly:

"We look at all aspects of the environmental impacts of what we buy. Ours is from underground mines."