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Coal in Our Life

Coal in Our Life image

Coal accounts for over 40% of the world’s electricity supply. It is fundamental in powering homes and industry, providing energy for transport and producing steel and concrete.

Coal is an essential resource for tackling the challenges facing the modern world - specifically the rapid increase in energy consumption. Coal is significantly cheaper and more accessible than other fossil fuels and its reserves are distributed much more equally around the planet.

Uses of coal

Electricity Generation

Power generation is the primary use for coal worldwide. Thermal coal is burnt to create steam that drives turbines and generators for the production of electricity.

Metal Production

Metallurgical (coking) coal is a key ingredient in steelmaking. Coal converted to coke is used to produce around 70% of the world’s steel. Coal is also widely used in the production of other metals including aluminium and copper.

Cement Production

Coal is used as a key energy source in cement production. By-products of coal combustion such as fly ash also play an important role in cement manufacture and the wider construction industry.

Gasification and Liquefaction

Coal is heated and pressurised with steam to produce ‘town’ gas for domestic lighting, heating and cooking. It is liquefied to make synthetic fuels similar to petroleum or diesel. The majority of coal-to-gas projects are located in the USA and China, with a few in Indonesia, India, Australia, Canada and South Africa.

Chemical Production

Syngas — from gasification — can be further processed to produce chemical building blocks such as methanol, ammonia and urea.

Other Industries

Other major users of coal include the paper, textile and glass industries. Coal is also used in the manufacture of carbon fibre and specialist ingredients such as silicon metals, which are used to produce ingredients for the household and personal care sectors.

The advantages of coal

Accessibility Coal does not require high-pressure pipelines, expensive protection during transport or costly processing. It is easier to store and handle than alternative, highly flammable fossil fuels or nuclear materials.
Usability Coal only needs to be mined before it can be used. Other fossil fuels must be refined, using lengthy and costly processes. Compared to gas, coal is significantly cheaper and more accessible and its reserves are distributed much more equally around the planet.
Versatility Coal is hugely versatile. As well as generating electricity, it is a core component in iron and steel making and is integral to a range of processes, including aluminium refining, paper manufacture and chemical production.
Affordability The abundance of coal, its accessibility, straight-from-the-mine usability and lower transport costs, make it an affordable form of energy. Electricity produced from coal is less expensive than other sources.
Safety Coal is easier and safer to transport, store and handle than alternative, highly flammable fossil fuels or nuclear materials.

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