Carnegie Mellon University
Coal Resources

The following coal resouces provide background information and suggested links for data in global energy, economics, market trends, and frequently asked questions (FAQ).  Compiled and assessed by:  Yutong Guo, Pui Leelasvatanakij, Michelle Mann, Ashish Sreedhar, and Shashank Sripad (2017 updates by Coral Keller and 2018 updates by Kojo Quaye)

This web link gives an overview of coal fundamentals including how it is formed, coal rankings, and the type of coal that make up those rankings. The site has extensive information on coal mining, pricing, and locations -

Data for coal consumption can be found from two primary sources: Energy Information Administration (EIA) and International Energy Agency (IEA). Additional information is published every year by BP in the BP Statistical Review of World Energy. The link below provides coal consumption data for different countries and industries. Data can be viewed interactively online, downloaded in a pdf, or exported into excel for manipulation.  US coal consumption -

This report was made by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) at the request of Congressman Lamar Smith, Chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.  This report details the impacts of the Clean Power Plan on various sectors of the energy industry. The report also entails an assessment of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) emission reduction targets and how it could affect the future of coal fired power plants. The report makes estimates using a reference case built on EIA's National Energy Modeling System (NEMS). Projections on coal plant retirements as a function of fluctuations in the natural gas markets are presented. (Page 47)

The EIA has modelled various possible case scenarios for the fuel mix used to generate electricity, considering the EPA’s Clean Power Plan (CPP) and the changes in the Oil & Gas market. This model employs data for electricity generation from 1990 to 2015 and using EIA’s analysis of the CPP, it makes forecasts through the year 2040. Data regarding the resources that make a gain in generation share with the decline in coal share to the fuel mix under different scenarios are graphically illustrated and plotted.

Based the reserves we have coal should continue to be available for at least a hundred years. Depending on new discoveries and technologies, coal reserves may grow. For more exact numbers by region, see the sources below: Coal slide pack (PPT or PDF) under the energy sectors section,0&geo=vvvvvvvvvvvvo&freq=A&start=2008&ctype=linechart&ltype=pin&rtype=s&maptype=0&rse=0&pin=  US reserves of coal. Shows past ten years in interactive chart

Around 3700 million tonnes were produced and consumed in 2016. Both production and consumption of coal has been leveling off and declining in some regions during recent years. To see the exact numbers and trends over time, access the following links:

Coal is mostly used for electricity, but is also utilized for steel and cement production. The links provided below have useful information on coal uses as well as explanations on how coal is used for different applications:  [pages 19-25]

Coal is heat that has been compressed over thousands of years. Depending on the location and time spent underground, coal properties will vary in terms of energy content and usefulness. Coal must be mined, processed and transported before implementation, usually as combustion for electricity generation. The links provided below provide more information on coal basics:

The price of coal varies by type and location. It tends to cost around $50 dollar per short ton. These sources have coal prices in different locations over time.  Refer to table A3 for energy prices

The conventional pulverized coal combustion plant has efficiency of more than 33%.  This resource link talks about the different cycles that are being researched to improve coal conversion to electricity efficiency even further:  Provides details on how efficiency could be calculated for coal. By looking through the site for data calculations could be performed

Currently the most promising technologies are Carbon Capture and Storage and Integrated Gasification Combined Cycles. One primary example of Carbon Capture and Storage is capturing CO2 emissions resulting from coal combustion and utilizing geological formations to store CO2 underground. Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle is where coal is converted to a pressurized synthetic gas and used to power a combustion turbine with excess heat used to help power a nearby steam turbine. Both concepts currently suffer a variety of technological, environmental and/or economic barriers that require additional research and testing. The links provided below give more in depth explanations of these technologies:

The effects from coal via pollution, health problems and external costs make coal significantly more expensive. These costs can be so pronounced as to make coal, in spite of its relatively cheap costs, to be less desirable than other fuels. More information regarding these costs analyses can be accessed at the following links:


Countries are investing in clean coal technologies or trying to find ways to replace coal. To learn about current policies in the United States, Europe, China and India, access the following links:  [page 37] [Slides 15-18]