Coal is a material that holds tremendous value in society as we all collectively rely on it so much. It has been used for hundreds upon hundreds of years in a range of different industries and it is safe to say that everything that has ever been built would crumble if coal was to vanish overnight. Here is the lowdown on all things coal related…

A Fossil? A Mineral? A Rock?

Coal is an organic material which means that it defies the normal standards that help us classify rocks, minerals and fossil. A fossil is evidence of a previous life that has been preserved in rocks. Coalification, the process that created coal, saw plant remains be compressed for millions of years under extreme pressure. Although it is not accurate to say that coal is the result of these plant remains being preserved, coal is very well known as a fossil fuel. A mineral is an inorganic solid which has occurred naturally and while coal has been made by nature, its creation is from organic plant matter. And finally, rocks are made from minerals, which coal is simply not. From a geologists point of view, coal is known as an organic sedimentary rock.

Coal Grades

This doesn’t mean that coal will be graded on its performance in a maths test, it means that coal is generally separated into three main types known as grades. Grade one, Lignite, is a brown soft coal that is created when peat is squeezed and heated. During this process, hydrocarbons are released and these hydrocarbons tend to roam. Eventually they will become something known as petroleum. If we add more heat and pressure to ignite, more hydrocarbons are released and eventually it will become a higher grade coal- known as bituminous coal. This type of coal is black, hard and usually has a glossy appearance. Again, if we continue to add further heat and pressure, we will form the highest grade of coal known as anthracite. During this process, the coal releases methane into the atmosphere. Anthracite, which has a shiny black appearance and is hard to the touch, is almost pure carbon and will burn at high temperatures but produce very little smoke.

Interestingly, if we continue to subject anthracite coal to more heat and pressure, it will become a metamorphic rock and when  it crystalizes into a true mineral, we will be left with graphite. Commonly known for its use in pencils, this slippery material is still able to burn but is advantages lay as a lubricant in writing utensils.

It’s to be expected that we are the experts when it comes to everything that is related to coal. Here at Pearson Fuels, we like to consider ourselves the best coal merchants around- however we’d love to hear the opinion of our readers too! Get in contact today to speak to a member of the team and find out more about the services we offer!