How is coal produced by wind

Coal - a well-tried fuel

Coal is a sedimentary rock that was formed over the course of several million years. The use of coal as a fuel has been known since the 12th century. It was decisive for industrialization and changed the course of the whole world. The first coal-fired power plant went into operation in the United States in September 1882. Lo and behold, only a short time later coal became the raw material for power plants around the world. Today, an estimated 40 percent of the world's electricity is generated using coal as a fuel. You can find out the history of coal origins and what the demand for coal looks like here.

The history of coal origins

The raw material for coal is largely of vegetable origin. The hard coal that can be mined today was formed around 360 million years ago, during the Carboniferous. The warm and humid climate prevailing at this time led to strong plant growth. Dead plants sank in the swamp and were thus kept away from the natural aerobic decomposition process. This is how the so-called peat was created. Peat is a special type of soil that is created in bogs through the process just mentioned. The temperature, which increased over time, as well as the increasing effects of pressure led to carbonization. With the process of coalification, water was pressed out of the peat and lignite was created. Gradually, more and more water was squeezed out of the coal. So brown coal became hard coal and, with increasing pressure, even anthracite. Thus, the older it is and the deeper it lies underground, the better the economic quality of coal.

Subdivision of coal

Brown coal

Lignite is mainly used as a fuel for electricity generation. The color of lignite is brownish to black. It also has a relatively high moisture content of 50 percent. For this reason, it is only transported over short distances and is mainly used regionally.

Lignite was created during the Tertiary period. The carbon content is 65-70 percent, the sulfur content up to 3 percent. Lignite is mined in open-cast mining. With a world share of one third, Russia has the largest reserves of lignite. Closely followed by Australia, Germany, the USA and China.

In the case of lignite, a distinction is made between:

  • Luster brown coal
  • Matt brown coal
  • Soft brown coal

Hard coal

Hard coal is a collective term for higher quality coal. More than 70 percent of the volume and 50 percent of the weight consist of carbon. As already mentioned, the origin of hard coal is carbon. A black, solid base mass is characteristic of hard coal. In addition, you can often find inclusions and impressions of primeval plants in it. The largest coal reserves are in the USA, China and India.

Hard coals are divided into:

  • Flame charcoal
  • Gas flame coal
  • Gas coal
  • Charcoal
  • Edible charcoal
  • Lean coal
  • anthracite


 anthracite is the highest quality type of coal. It is very hard and has a high carbon content. In the water- and ash-free coal, its carbon content is over 90 percent. Due to its high energy content, its hot flame and almost residue-free combustion, anthracite is a very popular fuel. The name is based on its metallic, dark gray color.


coke is a solid, carbonaceous residue. It is produced from low-ash and low-sulfur fatty coal through the action of heat in the absence of oxygen. This process is also known as coking. Coking is part of coal refinement. Coke is used in particular as a fuel and reducing agent in iron production in blast furnaces. And just as a side note: Coke is in no way related to cocaine!

Special types of coal:

  • Pitch coal: This type of coal was mined in Bavaria and is as old as lignite. Due to the high mountain pressure, it also has properties such as anthracite.
  • Shungite charcoal: Shungite charcoal consists of 95 percent carbon. This rock can be found in some places in Russia and Finland.
  • Wealden charcoal: This type of coal was formed in the Lower Cretaceous about 146 million years ago. This was the last major section of the Mesozoic era. From lignite to anthracite, Wealden coal reaches various stages of coalification.

Development of coal demand

In the past few decades, regional coal in Europe has been increasingly replaced by imported coal. This is especially true in Germany, Spain and the UK. As mentioned earlier, around 40 percent of the world's electricity is generated by burning coal. The proportion of this is around 80 percent in China and around 70 percent in India.

The most populous country in the world - China, has a particularly large influence on the price development of coal. Coal consumption in China is currently falling significantly. This can be attributed to massive air pollution and overproduction. Nevertheless, China is still the world's largest consumer of coal.

Furthermore, the demand for coal is expected to increase until 2021, but the percentage increase will keep decreasing. The demand for coal will continue to grow, but not as much as before. The need for coal is also expected to decrease in Europe and the USA. With an annual plus of 5 percent, the demand for coal for this in India continues to grow. And even if renewable energies such as wind or sun will gain more and more importance in the future, it will still take some time until they can meet the high demand. This means that coal will remain with us as an energy source for a long time to come, despite declines.

The graphic above provides information about the price development of coal over the past 10 years. The prices are in US dollars per ton. It is noticeable that in 2011 the price of coal at around USD 80 per ton was significantly higher than in 2016. In 2016, the price of coal was only around $ 40. The main trend is that the price of coal has fallen somewhat over the years. Currently the price is around $ 60 per ton.