The story of Coal


Did you know that coal contributes approximately 40% of the world’s electricity production? In other words, the world relies on this fossil fuel for energy production more than any other energy source, including oil, natural gas, nuclear sources, the sun, water, and the wind. As of now, a number of coal deposits present will last for another 300 years, but after that, as it is an exhaustible natural resource, there will be none of this fossil fuel left.


What is Coal?

  • Coal is a fossil fuel and is the altered remains of prehistoric vegetation that originally accumulated in swamps and peat bogs. The energy we get from coal today comes from the energy that plants absorbed from the sun millions of years ago.

How is coal formed?

  • The formation of coal takes millions of years, which is why it is an exhaustible and non-renewable natural resource.
  • It was formed around 300 million years ago when the earth was covered with swampy forests.
  • When plants in these forests- mainly trees, mosses, ferns, and reeds died, they fell into the swamps.
  • Thus there was a thick layer of dead vegetation in the swamp formed.
  • As years passed, more and more plants died and many such layers were formed, one above each other.
  • The topmost layers compressed the layers below. Heat and pressure caused some physical and chemical changes and eventually, some carbon-rich deposits were formed.

Coal Formation

How is coal obtained?


Neyveli Open Pit Mine Excavator

  • It is obtained from the underground seams, which are the layers of ores and are thick enough to be mined with profitable results.
  • There are two ways in which mining can be done- underground and open-pit. Determining the type of mining depends on the depth of the deposit.
  • Vertical shafts are dug to access the deposits through underground mining, whereas in surface or open-pit mining, soil and rocks that lie on top of the mineral deposits are removed.
  • The cost of surface mining is lesser than that of underground mining. This is why the surface mining is more dominant.

Neyveli Mines, Tamil Nadu, India

Uses of coal:

  • It is mainly used to generate heat and electricity.
  • It is used in households and in industries to accomplish various tasks.
  • It is the cheapest source of power fuel.
  • The iron and steel industry depends heavily on this fossil fuel for energy.
  • It is also used to produce useful products such as coke, tar, and coal gas.
  • This fossil fuel was responsible for the  Industrial Revolution of the 19th   century.

Formation of chemicals from coal routes diagram

To know more about the byproducts of coal and other fossil fuels such as petroleum and natural gas, download Byju’s- The Learning App.

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