- 1. What is coal?
- 2. The history of coal
- 3. How is coal formed?
- 4. What are the different types of coal?
- 5. Where is coal found?
- 6. How is coal mined?
- 7. What are the environmental impacts of coal mining and use?
- 8. What are the economic impacts of coal mining and use?
- 9. What are the social impacts of coal mining and use?
- 10. What are the future prospects for coal?
Technology is involved in every step of the coal life cycle, from mining to transportation to combustion and beyond. Learn about the different technologies involved in gathering and using coal.
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1. What is coal?
Coal is a black or brownish-black sedimentary rock that can be burned for fuel and used to generate electricity. It is composed mostly of carbon and hydrocarbons, with smaller amounts of other elements such as sulfur, nitrogen, oxygen, and hydrogen.
2. The history of coal
Coal has been used for centuries for a variety of purposes. It was first used commercially in Great Britain in the 12th century. By the early 17th century, coal was being used to heat homes in England.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, coal became an important energy source for industry and transportation. In the 20th century, coal continued to be an important energy source, but its use began to decline in developed countries as other energy sources became available.
The technology involved in gathering or using coal has changed over time. In the early days of coal mining, men mined coal by hand. They went into mines with picks and shovels and mined it out by hand. As demand for coal increased, new technologies were developed to help mine it more efficiently.
3. How is coal formed?
Coal is an organic sedimentary rock that forms from the accumulation and preservation of plant materials, usually in a swamp environment. Coal is composed of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen and sulfur. These elements have been combined over time through the process of photosynthesis. The current theory is that coal was formed during the Carboniferous period, which lasted from approximately 359 to 299 million years ago. It is thought that during this time period, dense forests grew in warm swampy environments near large rivers. As these forests died, they were buried by layers of mud and silt. The weight of the accumulating material caused the temperature and pressure to increase deep within the earth, which altered the organic matter of the plants and turned it into coal.
4. What are the different types of coal?
Most of the coal in the United States is classified as bituminous coal. The sedimentary rock Bituminous coal is a black or dark brown rock that often has well-defined bands of bright and dull material in it. coal is relatively soft, shiny, and popular for home use in barbecues and home fireplaces. When heated, bituminous coal emits a faint sulfurous smell. The two main types of bituminous coals are smithing coal, used for blacksmithing, and coking coals, used for steel making.
The harder form of bituminous coal is anthracite. Anthracite has a brilliant luster and is the hardest type ofcoal. When burned, anthracite produces a hot blue flame. A cool smokeless fire results when it is burned in an appropriate stove. It produces more heat thanbituminous but less smoke; it also sparked less than other types offuel when burned in an open fireplace. Anthracite was once mined extensively in eastern Pennsylvania; however, reserves are now low and production costs are high so only a limited amount of anthracite is mined in the United States today
5. Where is coal found?
Coal is found all over the world, with various reserves estimated to last from 158 years (at current consumption levels) to over 500 years. The biggest reserves are in the USA, Russia, China and India. Other countries with large reserves include Australia, Germany, Poland and Ukraine.
6. How is coal mined?
The choice of mining method largely depends on the geology of the coal deposit. Underlying coal seams can be close to the surface, in which case they may be extracted by open cut (also referred to as open cast, open pit, mountaintop removal or surface) mining methods. Alternatively, deeper seams can be accessed via shaft mining or horizontal or inclined drift tunnels that grade down to the seam. A further method that has been developed is long wall mining, which involves underground extraction of coal by a mechanised shearer that cuts coal away from a panel being advanced along the face of an underground mine. Long wall mining involves cutting long walls when an entire panel is extracted.
7. What are the environmental impacts of coal mining and use?
The combustion of coal is responsible for a significant amount of air pollution, including carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and mercury. The mining and burning of coal also releases a number of other pollutants into the air, including particulate matter (soot) and heavy metals. These pollutants can have negative impacts on human health, as well as the environment.
In addition to air pollution, coal mining and combustion can also lead to water pollution. Coal mines can release a number of pollutants into nearby water supplies, including metals and minerals, sulfuric acid, selenium and nitrogen compounds. These pollutants can impact human health by contaminating drinking water supplies or by causing elevated levels of toxic substances in seafood. They can also harm aquatic plants and animals.
8. What are the economic impacts of coal mining and use?
The economic impact of coal is very evident in the West Virginia economy. According to the American Coal Foundation, “Coal is an abundant natural resource that can be used to generate electricity, to make iron and steel, and to produce chemicals for a wide variety of products. These Uses of coal provide thousands of jobs and contribute billions of dollars to our economy annually.” In 2015, the estimated direct and indirect employment from coal in West Virginia was 23,600 with a payroll of $1.29 billion. The industry also contributed $3.4 billion to the state’s Gross Domestic Product.
The social impacts of coal mining and use are wide-ranging and vary from region to region. They can include displacement of residents from their land, damage or loss of property, economic disruption, health problems, and environmental impacts.
The most common social impact of coal mining is displacement of residents from their land. This can happen when mines are first developed, when they expand, or when they are abandoned. In some cases, people are moved to make way for the construction of mine infrastructure such as roads and processing facilities. In other cases, people may be forced to move because the coal mine has damaged or destroyed their home or community. This often happens when surface mining operations result in the loss of topsoil and the underlying rock that supports homes and other structures. When this happens, the structures may sink into the ground or collapse.
Damage or loss of property is another common social impact of coal mining. This can happen when houses or other structures are built on land that is later mined for coal. If the foundations of the structures are not strong enough to support the weight of the overlying rock, they can be damaged or even destroyed. In some cases, people may be compensated for the value of their property, but in others they may not be compensated at all.
Economic disruption is another social impact of coal mining. This can happen when businesses that were once supported by the coal industry are no longer able to operate because of changes in the market or in government policies. For example, a power plant that relied on coal might have to close if the price of coal goes up or if new regulations make it more expensive to operate than a plant that uses another fuel source. This can also happen when a community loses its only source of employment due to a mine closure.
Health problems are another social impact of coal mining and use. Dust from coal mines can cause respiratory problems such as asthma and black lung disease. Noise from equipment and explosives used in mines can also cause hearing loss and other health problems. Contact with contaminated water can lead to skin rashes and other health problems as well. In some cases, these health problems may not appear until years after exposure to Coal mine pollutants
10. What are the future prospects for coal?
Coal is a finite resource, which means that it will eventually run out. It is estimated that there are enough reserves to last for around 100 years, but this will depend on how much is used each year. The future of coal as an energy source will also depend on the development of other energy sources, such as renewables.