Uses of coal

Coal has many important uses worldwide. The most significant uses of coal are in electricity generation, steel production, cement manufacturing and as a liquid fuel.

Steel structure

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.

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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