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Coal Types

Last updated date: 27th Feb 2024
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What are Coal Types?

There are different types of coal that are all rocks and minerals composed largely of carbon. This fossil fuel produces ~40% of the planet's electricity and approximately 25% of the world's primary energy. Perhaps, not all coal used is the same. There are different types of coal and their uses. Moreover, there are different quantity levels of carbon—which pronounce the quality of the coal. Higher quality coal or the best variety of coal yields less smoke, burns longer, and renders more energy than lower quality coal.

Coal is Which Type of Rock

Wanting to know coal is what type of rock? Coal is typically organic sediment which contains a complex mixture of compounds. Depending upon the evolutionary phase of coal formation there are essentially four types of coal. The variety of coal types is based on energy density and the carbon contents of coal. Furthermore, it reflects the moisture content before drying, and the amount of mercurial content, after it's dried.

Types of Coal and their Uses

As mentioned above, there are primarily 4 types of coal that are distinguished from one another based on their process of formation.

  • 1st Stage - Peat

The first evolutionary phase of coal formation is Peat that is a bit more than wood pulp which has been poorly decomposed. There are huge deposits of Peat in the Greenland and Scandinavian countries. Peat coal can strip mine it because it is usually very close to the ground level. The issue with Peat is that it consists of a very low British Thermal Units (BTU) production per pound of the fuel burned. Moreover, strip mining is ecologically very devastating unless the mining operative makes a deliberate effort to restore the countryside. Strip mining is a phenomenon of scraping the coal from the top surface of the ground.

  • 2nd Stage - Lignite

The second in an evolutionary phase of coal is lignite. Lignite is found in a huge amount in the Western part of the United States. Again lignite is not specifically efficient in yielding energy per mass of fuel. There has been a little effort recently in the gasification and liquefaction of lignite. Liquefaction transforms lignite into liquid crude petroleum. Gasification plants transform lignite into natural gas products. The transformation process is very expensive, and with the current cost of other forms of fuel, it is economically impractical. However, if other fuels get too expensive, this could become a more economical process. Other research has been carried out scrutinizing other uses of lignite like a fertilizer in hydroponic plant growth.  Hydroponics is the use of nutrients containing water in place of soil for the growth of plant life.

  • 3rd Stage - Lignite

The third phase included in the coal development is bituminous (soft coal) which is one of the two stages used as a fuel in producing electrical power. The fourth and the final phase outcomes in the formation of anthracite (hard coal). If anthracite coal is put under more heat and pressure, it would in the de course be compressed into a diamond.

  • 4th Stage - Anthracite Coal

In this fourth stage in the coal formation, coal is formed due to the high pressure and high temperature for a long duration of time. It is hard, lustrous and has the greatest percentage of carbon among all the 4 coal types. This is also known as hard coal. Petroleum and natural gas deposits are generally found in the coastal areas.

Best Type of Coal

The best variety of coal is Anthracite It is also known as the hard coal and attained its name due to the compact carbon variety with a submetallic luster. It contains the greatest carbon content, minimal impurities, and massive energy density of all coal types, and is the top coals ranking. Moreover, anthracite is also the oldest variety of coal, having created from biomass that was buried 350 million years ago

Where is Coal Formed?

The energy in coal arises from energy stored in jumbo plants, which lived in wetland forests hundreds of millions of years ago, even before the dinosaurs! When those colossal plants and ferns perished, layers at the bottom of the swamps were formed. Water and soil started to amass around the remains of the dying vine.

FAQs on Coal Types

Q1. What are the Various Uses of Coal?

Answer: Coal is essentially a conventional solid fuel which has been exploited as a significant source of fuel by humankind for over thousands of years. Different types of coal have varying uses. Steam coal-also called thermal coal-is mainly used for generating power.

That said, let’s check out the main uses of coal:-

  • Coal is mainly used as a fuel for production of electric power plants for which over 50% of the coal produced in the world is used.

  • Another significant application of coal is cement production, steel manufacturing, and as liquid coal.

  • Coal is also used to burn for heat as a household cooking and heating fuel in Western nations.

  • Other uses of coal that may be increasingly essential in the future are in the production of liquid fuel by direct or indirect liquefaction to replace fuels composed from petroleum, production of methanol, a possible alternative for gasoline and generation of synthetic gases.

Q2. What is the Use of Bituminous Coal?

Answer: Bituminous coal uses are various. That said bituminous coal is mainly used for high carbon and low moisture content. Bituminous specifically makes for an ideal fossil fuel in the production of steel and cement, as well as in electricity and coke production. There are two divisions (used differently) of bituminous coal i.e.: thermal and metallurgical.

Q3. Why is Coal known as the Black Diamond?

Answer: You are now aware of the types of coal and their uses. But do you know why coal is called the black diamond? Coal is referred to as a black diamond because it is used in a variety of applications. Coal is frequently used in brick making kilns to make bricks, in factories as a raw material, in the kitchen for cooking. Coal is also utilized for electricity production.