We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What Is Coal Combustion?

By Jeremy Laukkonen
Updated May 17, 2024
Our promise to you
WiseGeek is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At WiseGeek, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Coal combustion is a process that involves the burning of certain types of sedimentary or metamorphic rocks to generate heat energy. The primary use for coal combustion is to fire boilers in power plants, though it has also been burned for other purposes such as heating and a source of locomotive power. In countries such as the United States, only about 10% of the total coal consumed each year is used for purposes other than generating power. Billions of metric tons of coal are combusted each year, accounting for about half of all electricity generated throughout the world.

There are several different kinds of coal and coal precursors, all of which are formed when certain biological materials are exposed to very high pressures over long periods of time. Most of these materials came be used for fuel, from peat to anthracite coal. High concentrations of carbon render coal highly combustible and allow it to burn longer than materials such as wood. Sub-bituminous and bituminous coals are classified as sedimentary rocks and contain more impurities than the harder, metamorphic anthracite. All three are commonly used to fuel coal-fired power generators.

When coal is combusted as part of a power generation process, it is typically first pulverized into a fine dust. The coal dust is then ignited within a furnace that is attached to a boiler. Coal combustion can result in a great deal of heat, which causes water in the boiler to turn into steam. The steam may then be used to activate turbines that are capable of generating electricity.

One of the main coal combustion byproducts is ash, which may take the form of bottom or fly ash. Many of the impurities present in coal can escape from a power plant in the form of fly ash if proper measures are not taken, while others are trapped in the bottom ash. Both varieties of ashes can be reclaimed for use in cement or separated out into the base impurities such as aluminum and iron, though uranium and other fissionable materials are sometimes found as well. One way to cut down on the amount of ash generated is to combust a slurry of water and coal rather than airborne dust.

In addition to power generation, coal combustion is also used for various other industrial applications. One common usage for coal is to turn it into coke, which is a substance that is very rich in carbon. The coking process involves subjecting certain types of coal to very high temperatures without providing sufficient oxygen for full combustion to take place. Coke has several uses, though it is essential to the operation of blast furnaces in the production of steel.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.