Coal supply

Coal was the fossil fuel that powered the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century and is still extensively used today in power generation and heavy industry due to its availability and low cost, as well as its role in certain industrial processes such as steelmaking. Because burning coal produces large amounts of CO2 and other pollutants, phasing out unabated coal will be essential to meet net zero emissions targets.

The coal supply includes production and imports minus coal that is exported or stored.

Domestic coal production

Coal is extracted from underground or surface mines and comes in several types or ranks. Higher-ranked types like anthracite ("hard") and bituminous coal have a higher heating value and are used in industries such as steelmaking, while lower-ranked coals like sub-bituminous and lignite ("brown") coal are primarily used for electricity generation.

Coal imports and exports

Being durable and relatively easy to transport and handle, coal is one of the most widely-traded fossil fuels. The vast majority is transported on ships.

CO2 emissions from coal

The burning of coal accounts for the largest share of CO2 emissions globally, primarily in the power sector.

Coal in electricity generation

Coal is still one of the most widely-used fuels for power generation because of its availability and low cost, though burning coal for power without capturing the CO2 is incompatible with international climate goals.

Final consumption of coal

Apart from power generation, coal is also used directly in high-heat industrial processes, notably steelmaking, and in some countries is used to heat homes and buildings. In non-energy applications, coal can be used to produce the industrial chemicals needed to make plastics and fertilizers.