We should not just consume hydrocarbon fuel but use it to develop nuclear energy, hydropower and renewable energy sources.

-Vladimir Putin

1.Where Coal is Found?

There are an estimated 1.1 trillion tonnes of proven coal reserves worldwide. This means that there is enough coal to last us around 150 years at current rates of production. In contrast, proven oil and gas reserves are equivalent to around 50 and 52 years at current production levels.

After centuries of mineral exploration, the location, size and characteristics of most countries' coal resources are quite well known. What tends to vary much more than the assessed level of the resource - i.e. the potentially accessible coal in the ground - is the level classified as proved recoverable reserves.

ResourceThe amount of coal that may be present in a deposit or coalfield. This does not take into account the feasibility of mining the coal economically. Not all resources are recoverable using current technology.
ReservesReserves can be defined in terms of proved (or measured) reserves and probable (or indicated) reserves. Probable results have been estimated with a lower degree of confidence than proved reserves.
Proved reservesReserves that are not only considered to be recoverable but can also be recovered economically. This means they take into account what current mining technology can achieve and the economics of recovery.

2.How energy generated from it? 

Coal is one of the most affordable and largest domestically produced sources of energy in the United States. It is used to generate a substantial amount of our electricity – about 37%. The challenge? Finding ways to burn it more sustainably. 

1. Heat is created 

Before the coal is burned, it is pulverized to the fineness of talcum powder. It is then mixed with hot air and blown into the firebox of the boiler. Burning in suspension, the coal/air mixture provides the most complete combustion and maximum heat possible.

2. Water turns to steam

Highly purified water, pumped through pipes inside the boiler, is turned into steam by the heat. The steam reaches temperatures of up to 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit and pressures up to 3,500 pounds per square inch and is piped to the turbine.

3. Steam turns the turbine

The enormous pressure of the steam pushing against a series of giant blades turns the turbine shaft. The turbine shaft is connected to the shaft of the generator, where magnets spin within wire coils to produce electricity.

4. Steam turns back into the water

After doing its work in the turbine, the steam is drawn into a large chamber in the basement of the power plant. In this important step, millions of gallons of cool water from a nearby source (such as a river or lake) are pumped through a network of tubes running through the condenser. The cool water in the tubes converts the steam back into water that can be used over and over again in the plant.

3. Application of Coal

Coal is something that we might have come across at least once in our lifetime. It is a common substance used in many homes and even in big industries. That being said, we will be studying coal and some of its uses here.

Further, coal is composed of elements like carbon, sulphur, hydrogen, nitrogen and oxygen amongst others.

Different Uses of Coal

Coal is seemingly the cheapest and most essential source of energy. Here is a list of all the major uses of coal.

  • Generating Electricity
  • Production of Steel
  • Industries
  • Gasification and Liquefaction
  • Domestic Use

Generating Electricity

Coal is generally used in thermal power generation which further helps to produce electricity. Powdered coal is burnt at a high temperature which further turns water into steam. This steam is used to turn turbines at high speed in a strong magnetic field. After this, electricity is finally generated.

Production of Steel

In the steel, industry coal is used indirectly to make steel. What happens here is that coal is baked in furnaces to form coal coke. Once this is formed, manufacturers use coal coke to smelt iron ore into iron and make steel. Meanwhile, ammonia gas is usually recovered from coke ovens and this is used to manufacture nitric acid, ammonia salts and fertilizers.


Many industries use coal to manufacture certain products. Some of the popular industries which make use of coal are the cement industry, paper and aluminium industry, chemical and pharma industry amongst others. Coal provides numerous raw materials like nozzle, coal tar, sulphate of ammonia, creosote, etc. to chemical industries. Coal is mostly used as a source of energy in most the industries

Gasification and Liquefaction

Coal can be turned into a synthetic gas which a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen. These gases are an intermediate product that can be further converted into different products like urea, methanol, pure hydrogen and more. Coal can also be turned into a liquid known as synthetic fuels.

However, these chemicals produced from coal are used primarily to make other products. Besides, most of the products out there in the market have coal or coal by-products as components. Some of them include aspirins, solvents, soap, dyes, plastics and fibres which include nylon and rayon.

Specialist Products

Coal is also an essential ingredient in the production of specialist products such as activated carbons, carbon fibre and silicon metals.

Domestic Use

In cold regions and in developing or underdeveloped countries coal is still used as fuel for cooking and a source of heat.

These are some of the top uses of coal. To know more about the properties and different types of rocks and minerals you can keep visiting BYJU’s or download our app for interesting content and learning experience.


4. Associated Problem with Coal

Increasing our use of coal would increase concern over several environmental issues. Two main environmental concerns associated with the use of coal are:

1.Pollution, caused by emissions of contaminants such as sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and mercury, which affects human and environmental health

2.Greenhouse gases, emissions of which contribute to global warming

The main legislation that applies to air pollution is the Clean Air Act (CAA). Under the CAA the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency set limits on the number of certain pollutants that can be released into the air. By using technology that either traps the pollutants before they are released into the air or that changes them into less harmful pollutants, the amount of air pollution can be controlled. Burning greater amounts of coal, however, would mean that more pollutants would need to be controlled through these methods.

Burning greater amounts of coal would also release greater amounts of greenhouse gasses, especially carbon dioxide which is the main gas associated with global warming. Little legislation exists in the U.S. right now that applies to global warming. Therefore, increasing our coal use could contribute greatly to global warming and cause major environmental problems.

5. Coal is King in India

In conversations about avoiding the worst impacts of climate change, removing coal from the world’s energy system is always at the top of the list of solutions. Here in the United States, inexpensive natural gas has out-competed coal in the power system, bringing about a 40 per cent decline in coal-fired generation over the last decade. However, coal is still king in other parts of the world.

India’s ambitious renewable energy goals have received a lot of international attention, but coal still provides half of India’s commercial primary energy and is the dominant fuel for power generation. In “Coal in India: Adjusting to transition,” Rahul Tongia and I state that we expect coal to remain the dominant fuel in the power sector in India, through 2030 and beyond.

Despite its dominant position in the Indian energy market, the Indian coal industry still faces structural and financial challenges. Additionally, the Indian power system is riddled with inefficiencies and distortions, from coal mining through final power sales to consumers.

Coal India Limited (CIL), which provides about 85 per cent of India’s domestic production of coal, is the world’s largest coal mining company. Coal is central to India’s political economy. The central government owns about three-quarters of CIL, which provides revenue to the treasury through dividend payments and taxes on coal production. Coal-producing states are among the poorest in India, and CIL contributes significant tax revenue and employment in these areas. Indian Railways transports the bulk of domestic coal and they over-charge for coal transport to subsidize passenger transport. For power plants located far from mines, coal transport is often the largest component of their coal costs.