image of coal burning

What is Coal Used For?

Coal is a sedimentary rock that has many uses, as it contains high levels of energy that is released through coal burning. Energy from coal is used worldwide for many uses, including heating homes, metalworking and energy production. In this article, we will discuss the different ways coal is used and how this works.

What is Coal?

Coal is a type of fossil fuel that has been used for centuries to generate energy. It is a black or brownish-black sedimentary rock that is primarily composed of carbon and other elements such as hydrogen, sulfur, and oxygen. Coal is formed from the remains of ancient plants and animals that lived millions of years ago and were buried under layers of sediment. In this article, we will explore the various uses of coal, the process of coal burning, and where to buy coal online in the UK.

What is Coal Used For?

Coal has many uses in modern society, ranging from electricity generation to steel production. Here are some of the primary uses of coal:

Electricity Generation: Coal is primarily used to generate electricity in power plants. Coal is burned to produce steam, which then drives a turbine that generates electricity. In fact, coal-fired power plants are still the largest source of electricity in many countries around the world.

Steel Production: Coal is also used to produce steel. The process of steelmaking involves heating iron ore in a blast furnace with coke (a form of coal) and limestone. The coke provides the heat and carbon necessary for the chemical reaction to occur, while the limestone acts as a flux to remove impurities.

Cement Manufacturing: Coal is used as a fuel in the production of cement. The heat generated from burning coal is used to heat the kiln which transforms raw materials into clinker, which is then ground into cement.

Heating and Cooking: Coal can be used for heating and cooking in homes and businesses. However, this use has declined in many countries due to concerns about air pollution and the availability of cleaner fuels.

Industrial Processes: Coal is also used in various industrial processes such as paper manufacturing, chemical production, and metal refining.


Coal Burning

The process of coal burning is quite simple. Coal is burned in a furnace or boiler to produce heat, which is then used to generate electricity or heat homes and businesses. The combustion of coal produces carbon dioxide (CO2), which is a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. It also produces other pollutants such as sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx), which can cause respiratory problems and contribute to acid rain.

To reduce the negative impact of coal burning on the environment, modern power plants are equipped with pollution control equipment such as scrubbers and electrostatic precipitators. Scrubbers remove sulfur dioxide from the emissions, while electrostatic precipitators remove particulate matter.

How Much Coal is Burned in the UK?

In the last fifty years, annual coal use in the UK has declined dramatically, from 157 million metric tons in 1970 to 8.6 million tons in 2021. This decline is due to public and political awareness that coal has highly negative health and environmental impacts in both long and short-term scales. At least partially because of this lessening in the use of coal, UK data across the same period shows national CO2 emissions from fossil fuels and industry have fallen from 660.39 million tons to 346.77 million tons, a drop of 52.5%.

The Government’s target of reaching Net Zero CO2 emissions aims to reduce CO2 production and increase ‘carbon capture’ or carbon sequestration. This is the removal of CO2 from the atmosphere and storage in a solid form, and can be achieved through efforts such as tree planting. In one year, a mature tree will absorb an average of 21.77kg of CO2. If the UK were to offset our current annual national emissions, we would need 346.77 billion mature trees, which is more than 100x the UK tree population as of June 2022. Reaching Net Zero by 2050 will take a concerted effort towards both reducing CO2 emissions and increasing carbon capture capabilities.

Where to Buy Coal Online in the UK

If you are looking to buy coal online in the UK, you’ve found the right place. Charles Swann Coal Merchants is a leading supplier of coal in the West Midlands. We supply solid fuels, including coal, smokeless coal, and kiln-dried wood. We offer free delivery on all orders within 30 miles of Wolverhampton and have a wide range of different coal products to choose from.



Charles Swann (Walsall) Ltd
Old Landywood Lane
WV11 2AP

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Phone 01922 408 152
Fax 01922 711 350

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