Ohio River Basin
MAJOR MARKET CENTERS AND PORTS
River basin is approximately
204,430 square miles and drains
portions of 15 states.
Ohio River Basin contains over
2,800 miles of navigable
River's 981 miles flow from
Pittsburgh to the Mississippi
The basin also includes the Ohio's
tributaries, the Muskingum,
Kentucky, Wabash, Tennessee,
Allegheny, Green, Kanawha and
Big Sandy Rivers.
River basin is the 10th
largest population center in the
The principal states of the basin
(Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, West
Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee)
harvested approximately 12% of
total US crop plants for 2012.
in 2011 for the Ohio River Basin
states was dominated by West
Virginia (135 million tons) and
Kentucky (109 million tons),
while the remaining principal
states collectively produce the
equivalent tonnage of either
West Virginia or Kentucky
(Pennsylvania, 59 million;
Indiana, 37 million; Ohio,
28 million; and Tennessee, 1.5
The total coal production from these
Ohio River basin states is about
of the total coal production
east of the Mississippi River.
River basin straddles the
typical designation of the
mid-Atlantic region and the
The major US cities in this basin
are Charleston, Cincinnati,
Nashville, and Pittsburgh.
The inland waterway system provides
access to all but a few of these
major mid-west cities.
ports along the Ohio River and
its tributaries are: Cincinnati,
Pittsburg, Louisville, Mount
Vernon, Chattanooga, and
Nashville. Tennessee River, a
tributary of the Ohio, has nine
ports that provide inland
waterway access to the southern
portion of the basin.
Fossil fuel power plants represent a
high percent of those individual
dockside facilities numbering in
the hundreds of individual
advantage of the inland waterway
system over other modes is the
cost and emission efficiencies
relative to other modes per
coal was the highest commodity
moved in terms of tonnage.
The highest total value commodity moved
was petroleum and
the lowest was aggregates.
Coal is the dominate
commodity in the Ohio River
In 2012, 112 million tons or 80% of the coal on the
inland system in the Ohio River
Basin was destined to coal fire
power generation facilities.
Production of Appalachian coal
in 2011 was approximately 455.8
The total movement of coal on the Ohio River basin inland
system represents about 31% of
total Appalachian coal
Critical to the
aggregates are the second
highest commodity group shipped
within the Ohio River Basin
inland waterway at 40 million
tons in 2012.
Aggregates include sand, gravel, and stone used in the
production of concrete and as
ballast in road construction.
Aggregates also include crushed
limestone in the production of
cement and steel, and as a
desulfurization agent by
coal-fired electric generating
By way of comparison, the Midwest sold or used
approximately 241 million tons
of sand and gravel
and 323 million tons of crushed
Crude petroleum and petroleum
products are the third highest
commodity group for the Ohio
River Basin inland waterway at
14.4 million tons.
Movement of petroleum is tracked
by the U.S. Energy Information
For the sake of comparison, the movement of total
petroleum from the east coast to
the Midwest was approximately 15
The east coast only received
about 5 million tons from the
The biggest movement of
petroleum was between the Gulf
Coast and the Midwest.
from the Midwest to the Gulf
Coast were about 39 million
The reverse movement (Gulf to
Midwest) was about 76 million
Since the EIA's definition of the Midwest includes the
Mississippi River basin a direct
comparison with the Ohio River
basin petroleum can't be
steel production in the US
totaled about 30 million tons of
pig iron and 86 million tons of
steel in 2011. Pig iron
was produced by 5 companies
operating integrated steel mills
in 15 locations whereas there
were 48 companies producing raw
steel at approximately 108
mini-mills. Of the
Midwestern states in the Ohio
River basin Indiana was the
leader in raw steel production
at 23% followed by Ohio (14%),
and Pennsylvania (6%). In
inland waterway system in the
Ohio River Basin moved 8.3 million
tons of iron and steel.
In 2010, the USDA and USDOT published a study of rural
This study noted that grain is particularly dependent on
barge transportation for access to international markets, with
the Upper Mississippi, Illinois, Ohio, and Columbia-Snake rivers
being the primary conduits. Nearly 13 million tons of
grain were shipped though the Ohio River basin inland waterway
By way of
comparison the total US grain export to
international markets in 2012 was 85
Corn and soya beans dominated Ohio River Basin grain movements, accounting for
nearly 70% of the grain movements
(37% for corn and 33% for soya
Corn used in the domestic market (primarily for feed and
production of corn syrups) is transported mostly by truck, while
the inland waterway is the conduit for the export market. In
2007 the Mississippi Gulf exported 63% of the animal feed corn
production for the US.
The Ohio River Basin was the conduit for the movement of
over 239 million tons of commodities.
Four perspectives of this traffic are offered:
Commodities moved out of the Ohio River basin (shipped), moved
into the Ohio River basin (received), shipped and received
within the basin (within), or shipped through the basin from a
port outside the basin.
The majority of commodity movements in the Ohio River
basin were shipments that were sent and received within the
The highest tonnage commodities
that were shipped out of the Ohio River basin were coal,
aggregate, and grain.
The state that received most of these commodities was
Louisiana (received over 38
million tons). Overall
the basin shipped over 48 million tons out of the basin.
The Ohio River basin states received nearly 30 million tons of
commodities from outside the basin.
Kentucky was the leader in receipts of
waterborne barge traffic in 2012 at 45.7 million tons.
Less than a million tons of waterborne cargo moved through
the basin. These move
typically involve moves between
the Alabama Gulf Coast and the
Upper Mississippi by way of the Tennessee-Tombigbee.
The vast majority of the commodity movements, 160 million tons,
did originate and were destined for ports within the basin.
VALUE TO THE NATION
The inland waterway provides an efficient means of moving large
volumes of commodities over long distances.
On average, a gallon of fuel allows one ton of cargo to
be shipped 59 miles by truck, 202 miles by rail, and 514 miles
origin of a commodity relative to its final destination may find
more savings via truck or rail.
Rail and Barge have higher upfront terminal costs but
significantly lower line-haul (per-mile) costs as the distance
between origin and destination, for that mode, increases.
The inland waterway system provides the most cost
effective mode for the movement of large volume commodities over
The value of
the commodities moved in 2012 was over $41 billion.
The relationship of the per ton value of the commodity
move does not track one-to-one with the tonnage moved on the
petroleum, petroleum products, and chemicals are the highest
value commodities per ton, but represent some of the lowest
tonnages moved in the system.
contrast, coal is
the highest volume commodity moved on the Ohio River System.
The majority of which is used in the production of power
for residential and commercial consumption. However, the
value of that coal represents a
much smaller amount of the total
value of commodities.
River Basin inland navigation
system provides some commodity
movements to Mississippi River
system, but predominately moves
commodities within the basin.
In terms of numbers the Ohio River Basin moves two-thirds
of the commodities, as a percentage of tonnage, within the
grain products moving on this part of the inland system are
likely destined for export to international markets.
The receipts of chemicals, non-metallic ores, and iron
related commodities far exceed the basins shipments.