This case was prepared by Robert Carraway. It was written as a basis for class discussion rather than to illustrate effective or ineffective handling of an administrative situation. Copyright

This case was prepared by Robert Carraway. It was written as a basis for class discussion rather than to illustrate
effective or ineffective handling of an administrative situation. Copyright  1986 by the University of Virginia
Darden School Foundation, Charlottesville, VA. All rights reserved. To order copies, send an e-mail to
sales@dardenbusinesspublishing.com. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system,
used in a spreadsheet, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopying,
recording, or otherwise—without the permission of the Darden School Foundation. Rev. 12/93.
BUCKEYE POWER & LIGHT COMPANY
Don Peters was manager of the Production Fuels Department of Buckeye Power & Light
Company (BP&L), a small utility in southeastern Ohio. BP&L had three steam electric power
plants—located in Athens, Zanesville, and Steubenville—whose primary energy source was
coal. Each month, coal for those plants was purchased from a heterogeneous collection of
vendors in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia, ranging in size from small father-and-son
operations to large mining companies. Peters was responsible for the monthly coal-procurement
process, including how much to purchase from each vendor and which specific plant (or plants)
each vendor should supply.
In October 1986, Peters’ immediate task was to determine November’s coal-procurement
schedule. BP&L had recently retained the services of a consulting firm to analyze aspects of its
operations, including the coal-procurement process. Peters hoped to use the opportunity of the
consultant’s analysis to rethink the entire procurement process. He also hoped the report would
shed some light on two related issues that had been a source of controversy within the
department.
Coal
Compared with oil, natural gas, and nuclear energy, coal was a relatively cheap source of
fuel during the 1980s. Coal is a combustible rock formed by the underground compression of
partially decomposed plant matter over millions of years. There are four major types of coal,
classified according to energy content: lignite (lowest energy content), sub-bituminous,
bituminous (most widely used as a fuel source), and anthracite (highest energy content). Coal’s
energy content (or thermal value) is measured in British thermal units (Btus). (One Btu is the
amount of heat needed to raise a pound of water one degree Fahrenheit.) Pure bituminous coal
typically contains on the order of 15,000 Btu per pound (Btu/lb).
There are three major determinants of the quality of coal. One is total moisture content.
There are two distinct types of moisture associated with coal. Free moisture lies on the surface
of the coal. Its presence, which depends primarily on conditions in the mine and in transit, is an
This document is authorized for use only by Jinghua Huang in Business Analytics for Complex Decision Making – BUS-410 – SFO1 at Hult International Business School, 2020.
-2- UV0568
important parameter in the design of coal-handling and -preparation equipment. Inherent
moisture is trapped within the pores of the coal itself and is present even when the surface of the
coal appears dry. Both types of moisture reduce energy content.
A second determinant of coal quality is ash content. Ash is the incombustible residue that
remains after the coal is burned. Like moisture, a high ash content increases shipping, handling,
and preparation costs while reducing thermal value. Additional equipment and expense is
required periodically to remove ash from a coal-fired furnace. Failure to do so adequately has a
long-term impact on the life of a furnace.
The third major determinant of quality is sulfur content. When coal is burned, sulfur
oxides are released, creating pollution and contributing to the corrosion of vital plant parts. Some
sulfur can be removed prior to burning by “washing” the coal. To further control pollution,
“scrubbers” can be attached to smokestacks to filter out a substantial number of sulfur oxide
particles. During the 1980s, the maximum level of sulfur oxide pollution was regulated by law.
Each coal-fired plant was thus forced to restrict the amount of sulfur in the coal it burned on the
basis of the specific pollution-control equipment it was using.
BP&L’s Coal-Procurement Process
Each month, vendors interested in supplying one or more of BP&L’s coal-fired power
plants completed an offer sheet specifying the amount of coal they had to sell along with its
quality and price. Quality was expressed in terms of Btu/lb and moisture, ash, and sulfur content.
Vendors were asked to quote a per ton price, transportation included, for each power plant they
were willing and able to supply. The Production Fuels department took all offers, adjusted them
for past performance (particularly the amount of coal available for purchase, which was often
overstated and had to be adjusted downward), and summarized the results in a document called
the offers edit report (Exhibit 1).
At the same time, each of the three coal-fired power plants submitted its requirements for
the upcoming month. Corporate policy dictated that a plant have sufficient Btu’s on hand each
month to satisfy 120% of expected demand. Exactly how many Btus to order for the upcoming
month depended on both the estimated ending inventory of coal in the current month (stated in
terms of Btus) and the expected demand during the upcoming month.
Each plant also provided minimum acceptable quality standards for moisture, ash, and
sulfur content. Each of those was stated in terms of a weighted average of all coal delivered to
the plant in the month. For example, 1,000 tons of coal with 2% sulfur content and 500 tons of
coal with 1% sulfur content would produce an overall 1.67% sulfur-content level; this number
was not allowed to exceed the sulfur standard. The sulfur standards were set by law; moisture
and ash standards were left to the discretion of the individual plant managers, who were familiar
with the costs associated with handling the increased levels of moisture and ash at their
respective plants.
This document is authorized for use only by Jinghua Huang in Business Analytics for Complex Decision Making – BUS-410 – SFO1 at Hult International Business School, 2020.
-3- UV0568
The Production Fuels Department was responsible for taking the offers edit report and
the plant requirements, summarized in the plant requirements edit report (Exhibit 2), and
arriving at an overall coal-procurement plan. Peters, as manager of the department, had the
flexibility to negotiate with both vendors and plant managers to strike a better overall deal for
the company. For example, he could negotiate price reductions and/or quantity increases with
vendors. Similarly, he could make plant managers aware of particularly restrictive quality
requirements and negotiate to have them relaxed. Ultimately, Peters was responsible for
approving the overall coal-procurement plan.
Recently, the Production Fuels Department had been struggling with two issues related to
the coal-procurement process: long-term contracts and safety-stock levels.
Long-Term Contracts
Because of a utility’s need to have a guaranteed source of fuel, long-term contracts with
coal vendors were a long-standing industry practice. A long-term contract with a vendor
obligated the utility to buy a minimum amount of coal each month from that vendor at the
contract-specified price. The balance of the utility’s needs were met by purchasing additional
coal on the spot market.
Prior to 1973, BP&L had purchased approximately 65% of its coal on long-term contract.
The energy crisis of the 1970s and resulting surge in demand for coal and coal prices had
precipitated an upward trend in that figure. By 1986, BP&L was purchasing 80% of its coal on
long-term contract (vendors in late 1986 with whom BP&L had long-term contracts and the
contract amounts are indicated in Exhibit 1).
As the energy crisis eased, however, the availability of coal became less of a concern.
Moreover, by 1986 prices on the spot market were running about $6 per ton less than long-term
contract prices. Many people in the Production Fuels department thought that the percentage of
coal purchased on long-term contract should be reduced, perhaps back to the 65% level.
Peters estimated that returning to the 65% figure would allow BP&L to reduce the
amount of coal purchased on long-term contract by 12,000 tons. If such a reduction were to be
made, it was not clear to Peters which of the current long-term contracts should be reduced
and/or eliminated.
20% Safety Stock
Running out of coal forced a utility to purchase energy from a neighboring utility at a
premium price. In August, for example, BP&L had sold 10 billion surplus Btus on an emergency
basis to a utility in western Pennsylvania for $20,000. A rash of such purchases by BP&L in the
1970s had driven the company to raise its required safety-stock level from 15% to 20%.
This document is authorized for use only by Jinghua Huang in Business Analytics for Complex Decision Making – BUS-410 – SFO1 at Hult International Business School, 2020.
-4- UV0568
Since the safety stock had been increased, however, none of BP&L’s plants had ever
been forced to purchase outside energy. In fact, over the past three years, actual monthly energy
demand had rarely exceeded 110% of expected demand. Some BP&L officials attributed this
situation to improved forecasting techniques, while others thought it represented a leveling off of
demand.
Whatever the reason, many at BP&L were now pushing to reduce the safety-stock level
back to 15%. Peters recognized that such a reduction would save BP&L carrying costs on the
coal needed to supply 5% of overall Btu demand. From October’s coal-procurement numbers,
Peters estimated that the average cost of a billion Btus at each plant were as follows:
Average cost of
Plant 1 billion Btus
Steubenville $1,740
Zanesville $1,610
Athens $1,625
He wondered if those were the appropriate costs to use, and if so, how to balance the cost
savings against the increased possibility of running out of coal.
This document is authorized for use only by Jinghua Huang in Business Analytics for Complex Decision Making – BUS-410 – SFO1 at Hult International Business School, 2020.
-5- UV0568
Exhibit 1
BUCKEYE POWER & LIGHT COMPANY
Offers Edit Report for November
Quantity
Available
Vendor (tons) Btu/Lb Moisture Ash Sulfur Plant $/Ton
Willis Bros. 2,500 10,980 6.2% 21% 1.2% Ath $30.80
MacMillan 9,000 11,590 6.0% 20% 0.9% Ath $36.80
K. Barnes 3,000 11,550 6.4% 18% 1.1% Ath $34.00
Foster & 27,000 12,065 6.1% 12% 1.0% Stb $42.00
Hughes Zan $41.60
Ath $45.60
Western 22,500 12,210 6.2% 14% 0.9% Stb $43.92
Zan $42.70
Ath $41.48
Pellham 6,000 11,240 6.8% 18% 1.8% Stb $33.15
McIntyre 3,000 11,000 6.3% 17% 2.2% Stb $32.00
Monongahela 30,000 12,640 5.8% 10% 0.8% Stb $44.10
Consolidated Zan $45.36
Pope 3,600 12,570 6.4% 10% 1.0% Zan $35.00
Lyon Valley 2,700 11,950 6.8% 12% 0.9% Zan $33.12
Crescent Rock 2,300 12,080 6.6% 13% 1.1% Zan $32.40
Long-Term Contracts: MacMillan (minimum of 8,000 tons)
Foster & Hughes (minimum of 20,000 tons)
Western (minimum of 16,000 tons)
Monongahela Consol. (minimum of 18,000 tons)
This document is authorized for use only by Jinghua Huang in Business Analytics for Complex Decision Making – BUS-410 – SFO1 at Hult International Business School, 2020.
-6- UV0568
Exhibit 2
BUCKEYE POWER & LIGHT COMPANY
Plant Requirements Edit Report for November
Btus Maximum Allowable Weighted Average
Plant (billions) Moisture Ash Sulfur
Steubenville 8001 6.0% 15% 1.0%
Zanesville 500 7.0% 11% 2.0%
Athens 600 7.0% 18% 1.0%
1 Number of Btus that, when added to October’s expected ending inventory, would equal 120% of November’s
expected demand.
This document is authorized for use only by Jinghua Huang in Business Analytics for Complex Decision Making – BUS-410 – SFO1 at Hult International Business School, 2020.
Order Now

Order from us and get better grades. We are the service you have been looking for.
WeCreativez WhatsApp Support
Our customer support team is here to answer your questions. Ask us anything!
👋 Hi, how can I help?