How Coal Is Formed


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{{ *COAL: Ancient Gift Serving Modern Man*
American Coal Foundation

*How Coal Is Formed*

Coal is called a fossil fuel because it was formed from the remains of
vegetation that grew as long as 400 million years ago. It is often referred
to as "buried sunshine," because the plants which formed coal captured
energy from the sun through photosynthesis to create the compounds that
make up plant tissues. The most important element in the plant material is
carbon, which gives coal most of its energy.

Most of our coal was formed about 300 million years ago, when much of the
earth was covered by steamy swamps. As plants and trees died, their remains
sank to the bottom of the swampy areas, accumulating layer upon layer and
eventually forming a soggy, dense material called peat.

Over long periods of time, the makeup of the earth's surface changed, and
seas and great rivers caused deposits of sand, clay and other mineral
matter to accumulate, burying the peat. Sandstone and other sedimentary
rocks were formed, and the pressure caused by their weight squeezed water
from the peat. Increasingly deeper burial and the heat associated with it
gradually changed the material to coal. Scientists estimate that from 3 to
7 feet of compacted plant matter was required to form 1 foot of bituminous

Coal formation is a continuing process (some of our newest coal is a mere 1
million years old). Today, in areas such as the Great Dismal Swamp of North
Carolina and Virginia, the Okefenokee


how is coal formed

Coal - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


** Coal **

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Sedimentary rock
Coal anthracite.jpg
Anthracite coal
Primary carbon
Secondary hydrogen,

Bituminous coal

*Coal* (from the Old English term /col/, which has meant "mineral of
fossilized carbon" since the 13th century)^[1] is a combustible black or
brownish-black sedimentary rock usually occurring in rock strata in layers
or veins called *coal beds* or *coal seams*. The harder forms, such as
anthracite coal, can be regarded as metamorphic rock because of later
exposure to elevated temperature and pressure. Coal is composed primarily
of carbon along with variable quantities of other elements, chiefly
hydrogen, sulfur, oxygen, and nitrogen.^[2]

Throughout history, coal has been a useful resource. It is primarily burned
for the production of electricity and/or heat, and is also used for
industrial purposes, such as refining metals. A fossil fuel, coal forms
when dead plant matter is converted into peat, which in turn is converted
into lignite, then sub-bituminous coal, after that bituminous coal, and
lastly anthracite. This involves biological and geological processes that
take place over a long period.

Coal is the largest source of energy for the generation of electricity
worldwide, as well as one of the largest worldwide anthropogenic sources of
carbon dioxide releases. In 1999 world gross carbon dioxide emissions from
coal usage were 8,666 million tonnes of carbon dioxide.^[3] Coal-fired
electric power generation emits around 2,000 pounds of carbon dioxide for
every megawatt-hour generated, which is almost double the approximately
1100 pounds of carbon dioxide released by a natural gas-fired electric
plant per megawatt-hour generated. Because of this higher carbon efficiency
of natural gas generation, as the fuel mix in the


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