Coal And Its By - Products: Coke, Tar And Coal Gas

Coal is one of the most useful fossil fuels. It has many applications, some of which include the production of heat for households, firing of industrial generators, manufacturing of cast iron, etc. It can also be processed industrially in order to obtain products like coke, tar and coal gas. These by-products are beneficial to us too.

Coke: Coke is a high-carbon product obtained by the destructive distillation of coal. The amount of carbon content in coke is so high that it is said to be an almost pure form of carbon. Coke is greyish-black in colour and is a hard, porous solid.

Uses of Coke:

  • The most common use of coke is as a fuel for stoves, furnaces and blacksmithing. It is sometimes preferred over coal because burning coke produces very little smoke.
  • It is also used to produce iron in a blast furnace.
  • Coke is used to manufacture steel and many other materials.

Coal tar: It is obtained as a by-product in the process of making coke. Though its colour is the same as coke, tar is a highly viscous liquid. It also has an extremely unpleasant smell. Uses:

  • Coal tar is widely used to manufacture paints, perfumes, synthetic dyes, photographic material, drugs and explosives.
  • It can be utilized to make insecticides and pesticides. Naphthalene balls that are commonly used to keep moths away are made from tar.
  • Coal tar is an ingredient of anti-dandruff and lice-repelling shampoos, soaps and ointments.

Coal gas: This is also obtained as a by product while producing coke, and again, just like tar, its smell is not very pleasant. It is a highly flammable gas as the main component of it is methane. Thus, if not regulated carefully, it can form mixture with air resulting in explosions. Uses:

  • It is mainly used as a fuel in industries situated near coal processing plants.
  • Earlier, it was used as a source of light. In the year 1820, it was used in London for the first time as street lighting.
  • Now, it is more commonly used to provide heat for domestic and industrial purposes.


To know more about this fossil fuel, its uses and its by-products and how they are produced commercially, download BYJU’S – The Learning App.

Test your Knowledge on Coal products!


  1. Why is coke used for making perfume and medicine

    1. Coal tar is used as a fixative in perfumes in order to make them evaporate slowly and emit their odour for relatively long durations of time. Coal tar can also be classified as a keratoplastic. It is known to cause the skin to shed dead cells on its surface.

  2. Very helpful. Thank you so much!!

  3. Define coal gas

    1. Coal gas, gaseous mixture—mainly hydrogen, methane, and carbon monoxide—formed by the destructive distillation (i.e., heating in the absence of air) of bituminous coal and used as a fuel.

  4. What are effects of coal products on the environment ?????

    1. The burning of fossil fuels releases greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, increasing levels of CO2 and other gasses, trapping heat, and contributing to global climate change. Coal combustion releases the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrous oxide (N2O) during combustion.

  5. Define petroleum

    1. Petroleum is a naturally occurring liquid found beneath the earth’s surface that can be refined into fuel. Petroleum is a fossil fuel, meaning that it has been created by the decomposition of organic matter over millions of years.

  6. What are the sources and products of coal?

    1. 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.

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