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Coal

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Coal - Lesson Summary

During the carboniferous age, the earth had large amounts of plant life and dense forests in swampy and low-lying wetland areas. Plants and other life forms, after their death, drifted down to the bottom of the swamps, where they were compressed and decomposed to form peat. 
Coal was formed due to the compression of the peat at high temperature and pressure. As coal was formed from the remains of vegetation, it is also called a fossil fuel.



Carbonisation is the slow process of conversion of dead vegetation into coal. Coal is the world’s most abundant fossil fuel. There was a time when it was used as a primary fuel for cooking and driving railway engines. It is now the largest source of fuel to generate electricity all over the world.

Coal is primarily made up of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen and some amounts of sulphur.
Coal is classified mainly into three types. They are anthracite, bituminous coal and lignite.

Anthracite
Anthracite contains high carbon percentage around 92% - 98%. It is the highest carbon grade and used mainly to produce heat.

Bituminous coal
It contains carbon percentage 60% -80% lesser than anthracite and used mainly for power generation.

Lignite
It has low percentage of carbon 25%-35% and mainly used for power generation.

Surface mining is used when coal is found close to the surface or hillsides. Underground mining is used to extract coal that is deep beneath the surface of the earth.
Warren Hastings, the first governor general of West Bengal, initiated the commercial coal mining at Raniganj in the year 1774.

Uses of coal
It is a black in coloured solid used in railway engines as fuel in the olden days.
It is used in thermal power production.
Coal is the largest source of fuel used to generate electricity world-wide.
Coal is used in manufacturing industries for heat and power applications.
Coal is used to make steam for heating.
It is also used as coke in steel making.
Coal is processed in the industry to get different products like coke, coal tar, coal gas, etc.

Coke
It is a porous and black colored substance.
It is a pure form of carbon.
It is used in the extraction of metals. And also used in the manfacture of steel.

Coal tar
It is a black thick liquid with an unpleasant smell.
It is a mixture of 200 substances.
The products obtained from coal tar are used as starting materials for manufacturing substances like dyes, drugs, explosives and perfumes.
Naphthalene balls, which are used to repel moths and other insects, are also obtained from coal tar.
Bitumen, a petroleum product, is now used in place of coal tar for surfacing roads.

Coal gas
Coal gas is obtained during the processing of coal to get coke. It is mainly used as a fuel in industries around coal processing plants.
It is used more as a source of heat than light. In the year 1810, for the first time coal gas was used for street lighting in London.
It is used as a fuel in many industries.

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