Skip to main content Skip to navigation links

NFCRC Tutorial: Coal

previous link: oil.html next link: oilshale.html

Coal was formed from plant life under the action of immense pressures and temperatures prevailing within the earth's crust over a period encompassing millions of years. The major elements present in the "organic portion" of coal are carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen and sulfur. Sulfur (mostly as iron pyrite) is also present as part of the "inorganic portion" or ash in the coal along with oxides of alumina, silica, iron, alkaline earths and alkalis. Coal also contains some chlorine. Coal is classified into the following four types according to the degree of metamorphism: Photo of a chunk of coal

photo of a coal mine in pennsylvania

photo of loading coal in mining pitAlmost all of the coal consumed in the world is for electric power generation by combusting the coal in boilers and generating steam to power a turbine. Coal is being used to a limited extent in gasification based plants to produce gas to fuel gas turbine based combined cycles (IGCCs) and in some countries such as China for chemicals synthesis. With more advanced gas turbines under development, coal based IGCC will have a strong economic and environmental basis to compete with boiler based power plants.

Coal Consumption1 and Recoverable Reserves2,3

The following table shows the coal consumption and the estimated reserves in 1995 in some countries (multiply ST by 0.9072 to obtain MT or Mega Gram):

Country

Consumption, 10 ST

Reserves, 10 ST

Australia

123

196,630

China

1,464

126,200

Germany

284

26,455

India

327

75,009

Japan

140

886

South Korea

52

202

Mexico

12

1,300

U.S.

941

268,500

TOTAL WORLD

5,117

1,142,968

 

Quiz

1. Which of the following two countries consumes the most coal? (hint: same two countries played in the 1999 Women's Soccer World Cup finals)
a) United States & Russia
b) Germany & India
c) Australia & China
d) China & United States
e) Los Angeles & the rest of Southern California

2. How is coal formed?
a) when a proton is charged by an electron.
b) when rocks are compacted into a high-density substance.
c) by the culmination of plant life over million of years.
d) by mixing Kool-Aid and water.

3. Coal is used for?
a) Electric power generation.
b) Battery-powered machines
c) Solar-powered devices
d) Flying kites


previous link: oil.html next link: oilshale.html

References:
Energy Information Administration - Country Analysis Briefs