Different types of coal have different uses. Steam coal - also
known as thermal coal - is mainly used in power generation. Coking
coal - also known as metallurgical coal - is mainly used in steel
The biggest market for coal is Asia, which currently accounts for
over 65% of global coal consumption; although China is responsible
for a significant proportion of this. Many countries do not have
natural energy resources sufficient to cover their energy needs,
and therefore need to import energy to help meet their
requirements. Japan, Chinese Taipei and Korea, for example, import
significant quantities of steam coal for electricity generation and
coking coal for steel production.
Other important users of coal include alumina refineries, paper
manufacturers, and the chemical and pharmaceutical industries.
Several chemical products can be produced from the by-products of
coal. Refined coal tar is used in the manufacture of chemicals,
such as creosote oil, naphthalene, phenol, and benzene.
Ammonia gas recovered from coke ovens is used to manufacture
ammonia salts, nitric acid and agricultural fertilisers. Thousands
of different products have coal or coal by-products as components:
soap, aspirins, solvents, dyes, plastics and fibres, such as rayon
and nylon. Coal is also an essential ingredient in the production
of specialist products:
Activated carbon - used in filters for water and air purification and in kidney
Carbon fibre - an extremely strong but light weight reinforcement material used
in construction, mountain bikes and tennis
Silicon metal - used to produce silicones and silanes, which are in turn used to
make lubricants, water repellents, resins,
cosmetics, hair shampoos and toothpastes.