Coal is a fossil fuel just like oil and natural gas. Whereas oil and natural gas come from the rests of microscopic organisms living in water (plankton, seashells, coral, etc.) deposited at the bottom of ancient seas, coal formed from the rests of plants of the past, the structure and form of which, albeit modified, can still be identified by means of a microscope.
Types of Coal and Their Uses
Carbon is the main component of coal after the other basic components of the original living matter (hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen) progressively decayed during chemical and physical processes transforming it. The combustion of coal frees the energy of the sun stored in plants thanks to the photosynthesis millions of years ago: therefore it is an invaluable container of “fossil” solar energy.
It is solid dark colored fuel found in deposits of sedimentary rock. burned to produce energy and is used to manufacture steel. It is also an important source of chemicals used to make pharmaceuticals, fertilizers, pesticides, synthetic dyes and oils.
It comes from ancient plants buried over millions of years in the Earth’s crust. It is rich in hydrocarbons organic matter. Higher grades coal have higher fixed carbon content.
One of the earliest known references to cool was made by Greek philosopher and scientist Aristotle, who referred to charcoal and like rock found in Thrace, a region on the northwest shore of the Aegean Sea, and in the northeastern Italy.
Some historian believes it was first used commercially in China in 1000 B.C. In the early 18th century the demand escalated when England iron founders John Wilkinson and Abraham Darby used coal, in the form of coke, to manufacture iron.
The invention of the coal burning steam engine by Scottish mechanical engineer James Watt in 1769 boosted the demand. During the 20th century uses of petroleum and natural gas reduce the demand. The black gold backbone of the industrial revolution, experienced a renaissance in the 1970’s after 30 years of neglect.
At present, it is second largest source of energy and it fulfills 24% energy demand of the world. Worlds, 39% electricity are being produced by burning coal.
4 Types of Coal
Coal is classified into four types which are lignite, subbituminous, bituminous and Anthracite based on the carbon content and the amount of energy they can produce. These categories are explained below in detail:
1: Anthracite Coal – The best type of Coal
This is the highest ranked, hardest, oldest, and least common type of coal. It possesses a high energy content, high percentage of carbon more than 90% and relatively little moisture or volatiles.
It is low in volatile matter (oxygen and hydrogen). Anthracite bums with almost no smoke. Anthracite deposits account for only 5% of global output. Only China and U.S.A. have large deposits of anthracite.
2: Bituminous Coal
This is the second rank of coal, softer and younger than anthracite, and containing a lower percentage of carbon between 60% to 80% carbon content. Bituminous coal is most mined and most widely available. It is suitable for heavy industry and is also used for coking. It is mostly used in steel industry. Bituminous shares nearly four-fifth of the global output of coal.
3: Lignite Coal
This is the softest, youngest, and wettest rank of coal. Lignite is popularly known as “brown coal”. It has carbon content from 45% to 65% and highest the moisture. Lignite coal used for generating thermal electricity and is being used for chemical industry. Germany, Hungary, Russian Federation, Australia and Czech Republic possess large reserves of lignite coal.
4: Peat Coal
Peat is most inferior grade of coal that has been formed only through very limited degree of decomposition. It contains only 30% of carbon and much higher proportion of moisture and other volatile matters. Thus peat generates very little heat and plenty of smoke.
Environmental Facts for Coal
The favorable environment for the formation of coal includes the vast coastal, lagoon or swampy plains where in the past the hot and humid climate developed rich vegetation.
The low sinking of the soil led the vegetal organisms to be quickly buried by sand and clay carried by rivers. Underground, in the absence of oxygen, the vegetal matter pressed by the weight of sediments and owing to the heat undergoes a process of compression and slow transformation into materials progressively poorer in water and rich in carbon.
Coal Production Distribution by Country in World
Coal is widely distributed over the earth and more than 70 countries possess large deposits. The major deposits lie in the Northern Hemisphere, mostly between 30°N to 50°N latitude.
There is very little coal in the Tropics but a considerable amount in polar lands. The Russians, Norwegians and Greenlanders all mine coal north of the Arctic Circle and there are known deposits in Antarctica.
World coal reserves are about 1.08 trillion tons, while resources are about 10 trillion metric tons. Although reserves are widely distributed in the world:
- U.S.A. 27.1%
- Ex USSR 23%
- China 12%
- Australia + India+ Germany + South Africa 29%
- Europe +Russia 44%
- North America 28%
- Asia 17%
- Australia 5%
- Africa 5%
- South America 1%
Today, coal is second largest source of energy in the world, accounting for 24% of world primary energy production.
According to latest statistics, world coal reserves are 909,064 million metric tons.
Largest Coal Producing Countries Distribution in World
1: China Coal Production
China outranks all countries in coal production in the world. Its consumption is mostly in iron and steel industry and power generation. China produces its 75% electricity from coal and produces one fourth of the world.
China Coal Consumption is high so it also imports large quantities
The Quinling Mountain and Huai River Basin possesses 90% coal deposits of China.
It produced 2,380 million metric tons. China possesses about 12.6% reserves of world and 114,500 million metric tons.
2: Russian Federation and Independent States
Russia possesses second largest coal reserves in the world, which amounts 157,010 million metric tons and 17.3% of the world total reserves. Among independent states, it is found in Ukraine and Kazakhstan & have large reserves.
In the Common Wealth of Independent States (CIS) Donbas region (North of Black Sea and Azor Sea) produces 60% of country’s out of high grade coal.
Coal production of Russia was 309.2 million metric tons. There are 80 deposit sites in Russia. Russia possesses Anthracite and Bituminous reserves.
3: US Coal Production
United States possesses more than 27% deposits of the world and 246,643 million metric tons. U.S.A. is second largest producer in the world. U.S.A. produces more than 50% its thermal electricity with the help of coal.
Most important producing region is Appalachian Mountains. In this region Anthracite coal fields of Pennsylvania State are one of the important deposits in the world.
Interior coal fields of Illinois basin, In the west, Pacific coastal region and interior, Gulf of Mexico and Alaska states also possesses large deposits of coal.
U.S.A. produced 1053.6 million metric tons. U.S.A. is second largest coal exporting country in the world.
4: India Coal Production
India ranks 4th largest country in coal deposits and it has 92,445 million metric tons. Reserves are 10 percent of total reserves of the world.
West Bengal, Bihar, Orissa and Madhya Pradesh comes in list of largest states in India by production & Contribution of 98% reserves and 99% of country’s coal.
India produced 447.3 million metric tons. Major production goes to thermal power generating sector and iron and steel manufacturing.
5: Australia Coal Production
In the Southern Hemisphere, Australia is leading country in reserves and production. It has world’s 5th largest reserves of 78,500 million metric tons and is 4th big producer, with 373.8 million metric tons production. Australia is one of largest exporter in the world and Japan is biggest buyer.
Coal fields of Australia lies in New South Wales and New Castle regions. This area possesses biggest coal mines in the Southern Hemisphere, Australia.
6: South Africa Coal Production
In the continent of Africa, South Africa ranks first in coal reserves and production. It provides 97% production of Africa. Among the world, South Africa ranks 6th in coal reserves and production.
Union of South Africa has reserves in Natal, the Cape of Good Hope and Transvaal provinces.
According to recent Statistics, its reserves were 48,750 million metric tons and coal production was 257 million metric tons.
7: Germany Coal Production
Germany is the largest coal mining country in Europe. It ranks 7th in the world. Its coal reserves are 6,739 million metric tons and ranks 10th in the world.
Saar Basin, Rhur and Westphalia coal range contributes major portion of German coal output. Recently, its production was 197.2 million metric tons.
In the East European region Poland is important with coal reserves of 14,000 million metric tons and ranks 8th in the world.
The Silesian Coalfield is the most significant for production in Poland. Most of Poland Energy source is coal, 93 percent thermal power is produced. Poland produced 156 million metric tons.
Indonesia is 9th largest coal producing country in the world. It is exporting country and also generates thermal electricity with its help.
Recently, its production was 195 million metric tons. Indonesia ranking 14th in the world possesses 4,698 million tons reserves.
10: Pakistan Coal Production
Pakistan possesses one of largest coal reserves in the world, which are 185,173 million metric tons. After recent discovery of Thar Coalfield, Pakistan has become second largest coal possessing country after U.S.A.
Province Sindh, Punjab and some part of Baluchistan are famous in production. In Pakistan is near 4 million metric tons which is too small.
Other Important Countries
These countries Brazil, Colombia, Canada, Czech Republic, Turkey, Greece, Hungary, Bulgaria and Thailand possesses large deposits and produce significant amount.