According to the 2011 BP Statistical Energy Survey, the world had end 2010 coal reserves of 860938 million tonnes, equivalent to 118 years of current production and 100% of the world total. The worlds largest reserves are held by the USA, Russia, China, Australia and India.
The world had 2010 coal consumption of 3555.77 million tonnes oil equivalent, a change of 7.5% on 2009.
According to the same survey, the world had 2010 coal production of 7273.29 million tonnes.
The world had 2009 coal production of 6940.57 million tonnes. The worlds major producers are China, the USA, India, Australia, Russia, Indonesia and South Africa.
The world had 2009 coal consumption of 3278.3 million tonnes oil equivalent. China, which accounts for nearly 50% of world consumption, the USA, India, Japan and Russia are the major coal consuming nations.
The population of the world continues to grow, as does the average standard of living, increasing demand for food, water and energy and placing increasing pressure on the environment. The population of the world doubled from 3.2 billion in 1962 to 6.4 billion in 2005 and is forecast to grow to 9.2 billion in 2050.
Supplies of oil, gas, coal and uranium are forecast to peak as reserves are depleted. At the same time, fear of climate change is putting pressure on the energy sector to move away from carbon burning to nuclear, solar and other environmentally friendly energy sources.
Coal was created by the fossilised remains of plants and has high carbon content. Coal is the worlds most abundant and widely distributed fossil fuel. Coal is still the primary energy source for several countries world-wide and provides between 25% and 28% of the worlds primary energy. Worldwide, coal is the main fuel for the generation of electricity as the price of coal is cheap compared to other fuels. It is also the highest polluting source of electricity. The other major uses of coal are in the production of steel and synthetic fuels.
Coal is classified by rank, which is a measure of the amount of alteration that the coal has undergone (i.e. amount of heat and pressure that the coal has undergone during formation). The increase in rank describes an increase in temperature and pressure which results in the coals having a lower volatile content, therefore increased carbon content.
Coal is also classified according to its sulphur, phosphorous, volatile and ash contents, whose proportions generally vary according to its rank. Consecutive stages in evolution of rank, from an initial peat stage, are brown coal (or lignite), sub-bituminous coal, bituminous coal, and anthracite.
Coking coal is used in the steel making industry where the coal requires specific qualities such as low sulphur and phosphorous contents. Approximately 630 kg of coal are used for every ton of steel produced. Electricity generation uses thermal coal, which is ground to a fine powder prior to combustion.