what is the uses of coal

Uses of Coal: 

  1. The prime use of coal is in  the form of energy source as a fuel. For ex: The combustion of coal in power generating plants is used to make steam which operates turbines and generators.
  2. It is used in industries such as paper production, cement and ceramic manufacture ,iron and steel production and chemical manufacture for heating and steam generation.
  3. It is also used in the manufacture of coke as the coke has higher energy content than coal.
  4. The coal tar is also produce from coal which is very useful material and also called as pitch.
  5. The coal is also used in dye and coloring agents.
  6. It is a measure components of different bye products as: soap, aspirins, solvents, dyes, plastics and fibers like rayon and nylon.

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Coal is one of the cheapest and most important sources of energy, responsible for 41% of electricity production worldwide.The Pros of Coal are most evident in Electricity Generation where it continues to grow at a sharp pace in countries like India and China. In many important countries like India,China,Germany,USA,Coal is the primary source of electricity and energy.Other smaller countries also heavily rely on coal for example Poland 94% , South Africa 92%, China for 77% and Australia for 76% of Electricity.Coal has played this a pivotal role in the development of mankind and his progress into the Industrial Age.Coal is an essential raw material and fuel for important global industries like Cement and Steel.Different qualities of Coal are used for different purposes.For example coking coal with higher carbon percentage is used in Steel Production while Thermal Coal is used in Production of Electricity.It was during the Industrial Revolution in the 18th and 19th centuries that demand for coal surged. Coal is responsible for almost a quarter of the global energy production,41% of the Electricity Production and more than 60% for Steel Making.

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Coal has many important uses worldwide. The most significant uses are in electricity generation, steel production, cement manufacturing and as a liquid fuel. Around 6.6 billion tonnes of hard coal were used worldwide last year and 1 billion tonnes of brown coal. Since 2000, global coal consumption has grown faster than any other fuel. The five largest coal users - China, USA, India, Russia and Japan - account for 76% of total global coal use.

Different types of coal have different uses. Steam coal - also known as thermal coal - is mainly used in power generation. Coking coal - also known as metallurgical coal - is mainly used in steel production.

The biggest market for coal is Asia, which currently accounts for over 67% of global coal consumption; although China is responsible for a significant proportion of this. Many countries do not have natural energy resources sufficient to cover their energy needs, and therefore need to import energy to help meet their requirements. Japan, Chinese Taipei and Korea, for example, import significant quantities of steam coal for electricity generation and coking coal for steel production.

Other important users of coal include alumina refineries, paper manufacturers, and the chemical and pharmaceutical industries. Several chemical products can be produced from the by-products of coal. Refined coal tar is used in the manufacture of chemicals, such as creosote oil, naphthalene, phenol, and benzene. Ammonia gas recovered from coke ovens is used to manufacture ammonia salts, nitric acid and agricultural fertilisers. Thousands of different products have coal or coal by-products as components: soap, aspirins, solvents, dyes, plastics and fibres, such as rayon and nylon. Coal is also an essential ingredient in the production of specialist products:

  • Activated carbon - used in filters for water and air purification and in kidney dialysis machines.
  • Carbon fibre - an extremely strong but light weight reinforcement material used in construction, mountain bikes and tennis rackets.
  • Silicon metal - used to produce silicones and silanes, which are in turn used to make lubricants, water repellents, resins, cosmetics, hair shampoos and toothpastes.
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Coal and Its Uses

Coal is a plentiful resource that has been used for thousands of years to produce energy, both in the form of heat and electricity.

What Is Coal?

Coal is a combustible sedimentary rock (glossary term) composed mostly of carbon and hydrocarbons (glossary term) . It is the most abundant fossil fuel (glossary term) produced in the United States, but it is a nonrenewable resource. The energy in coal comes from the energy stored by plants that lived hundreds of millions of years ago in swampy forests. Over time, layers of dead plants at the bottom of the swamps were covered by layers of water and dirt, trapping the energy of the dead plants. The heat and pressure from the top layers turned the plant remains into coal.

Is All Coal the Same?

Coal is a complex resource and can vary in composition even within the same deposit. Generally, there are four different types or ranking levels of coal, each with differences in energy output as a result of increased pressurization, heat, and time.

Lignite – This is a brownish-black coal with high moisture and ash content, which has the lowest heating value of the four types of coal. It is considered an “immature” coal that is still soft. It is used for generating electricity.

Subbituminous coal – This is a dull black coal with a higher heating value than lignite, and is used principally for electricity and space heating.

Bituminous coal – This is the most common type in the United States, accounting for over 50% of the demonstrated reserve base. It is the most commonly used type of coal for electric power (glossary term) generation in the United States. It is a dark, hard coal that has a higher heating value than lignite and subbituminous coal, but a lower heating value than anthracite.

Anthracite – This is also known as "hard coal" that was formed from bituminous coal under increased pressures in rock strata during the creation of mountain ranges. In the United States, it is located primarily in the Appalachian region of Pennsylvania. It is very hard and shiny. This type of coal is the most compact and therefore, has the highest energy content (glossary term) of the four levels of coal. It is used for space heating and generating electricity. It makes up only 1.5% of the demonstrated reserve base for coal in the United States.

What Is Coal Used For?

Coal is used primarily as an energy source, either for heat or electricity. It was once heavily used to heat homes and power locomotives and factories. Bituminous coal is also used to produce coke for making steel and other industrial process heating. Coal gasification (glossary term) and coal liquefaction (coal-to-liquids) are also possible uses of coal for producing synthetic fuel. Approximately 4% of the coal mined in the United States is exported, and most of the exported coal is used for making steel.

How Is Electricity Generated from Coal?

In the United States, coal accounts for approximately 50% of the electricity produced. Mined coal is delivered to coal-fired power plants, where electricity is generated. At the power plant, the coal is combusted to boil water and produce steam to operate a conventional steam turbine (glossary term) and generator (glossary term) , which produces electricity. The electricity is sent to users through a transmission system that consists of electric transmission lines (glossary term) , towers, substations (glossary term) and other components (see the Energy Transmission section to learn more). For a complete listing of the impacts tied to energy production from coal, the impacts from mining and the construction and operation of power plants and transmission systems should be considered.

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When America's founders first settled along the eastern seaboard in the late 1600s, little did they suspect that the land beneath them and to the west contained vast deposits of coal. In fact, in most of the Nation's larger cities, the first coal users – colonial blacksmiths – fired their furnaces with “fossil coal” or “stone coal” imported from England and Nova Scotia.


The first record of coal in the United States shows up in a map of the Illinois River prepared by Louis Joliet and Father Jaques Marquette in 1673-74 (they labeled the coal deposits “charbon de terra”). In 1701, coal was found by Huguenot settlers on the James River in what is now Richmond, Virginia. By 1736, several “coal mines” were shown on a map of the upper Potomac River near what is now the border of Maryland and West Virginia.


The first coal “miners” in the American colonies were likely farmers who dug coal from beds exposed on the surface and sold it by the bushel. In 1748, the first commercial coal production began from mines around Richmond, Virginia. Coal was used to manufacture shot, shell, and other war material during the Revolutionary War.


By the late 1700s, coal was being mined on “Coal Hill,” now Mount Washington in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Dug from the steep hillsides, the coal was used by early settlers to heat their homes and sent across the Monongahela River in canoes to provide fuel for the military garrison at Fort Pitt.


By the 1800s, Americans had found a variety of ways to use the coal they discovered in larger and larger quantities beneath their expanding lands. In 1814, coal was burned to heat salt brines to provide a source of salt in southwestern Pennsylvania.


In 1816, the city of Baltimore, Maryland, began to light its streets with combustible gas made from coal. By the 1830s, coal was being used to make glass in Fayette County, Pennsylvania.


The first major boon for coal use occurred in 1830 when the Tom Thumb, the first commercially practical American-built locomotive, was manufactured. The Tom Thumb burned coal, and in rapid fashion, virtually every American locomotive that burned wood was converted to use coal. America's coal industry had begun taking shape.


To meet the increasing demand for coal, the steam shovel was invented in 1839, beginning the transformation of the burgeoning coal industry to mechanized surface mining. In 1848, the first coal miners' union was formed in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania (the United Mine Workers of America would come into existence 42 years later).


The 1870s saw the next major surge in coal demand. In 1875, coke – a product of heating coal – replaced wood charcoal as the chief fuel for iron blast furnaces. Strip mining began in 1866 near Danville, Illinois, and by 1877, steam shovels were being used to reach a 3-foot thick coal bed in Kansas. With the rise of iron and steel, coal production increased by 300 percent during the 1870s and early 1880s. By the early 1900s, coal was supplying more than 100,000 coke ovens, mostly in western Pennsylvania and northwestern West Virginia.


The roots of today's primary use of coal – electric power generation – can be traced back to Thomas Edison. In 1882 Edison built the first practical coal-fired electric generating station, supplying electricity to some residents of New York City. In 1901, General Electric Company built the first alternating current power plant at Ehrenfeld, Pennsylvania. The plant, designed to eliminate the difficulties in long-distance direct current transmission, was built for the Webster Coal and Coke Company.


By 1961, coal had become the major fuel used by electricity utilities to generate electricity, and a new era for coal began taking shape. U.S. coal production nearly doubled, increasing from 520 million tons in 1970 to one billion tons for the first time in 1990 and to nearly 1.1 billion tons currently. From its earliest use in colonial blacksmith shops, coal had helped wean larger cities from their reliance on imports from England and Nova Scotia, change the nature of transportation, and power an industrial revolution. Now it was the dominant fuel for U.S. electric power generation. It had become a solid cornerstone of America's modern energy mix.

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