From the 1980s to the early 21st century, the global coal industry succeeded in increasing hard coal production by 97%. However, most of the coal produced is used for domestic consumption and only 15% of the production reaches the global coal market.
Coal Industry: Production
In 2006, the total production of the global coal industry stood at 6,152 million tons (MT). Of this, the production of hard coal stood at 5,205 MT and that of brown coal was pegged at 937 MT. In 2007, the production of hard coal and brown coal rose to 5,543 MT and 945 MT, respectively. The production of brown coal rose by 0.85% in 2007, with Germany being the largest producer. Brown coal is used primarily for the generation of electricity.
According to the British Petroleum statistical survey, the market share of the prominent coal producers of the world in 2006 was pegged at:
- China - 38.4%
- USA - 17%
- India - 7.2%
- Australia - 6%
- Russia - 5%
World Coal Industry: Reserves
The United States Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimated the world coal reserves at 998 billion short tons. As per the findings of the World Coal Institute, coal reserves are expected to last for a period of 133 years at the current production rate. Coal reserves are available almost across the globe. The world’s largest coal reserves are in the USA, Russia, Australia, China, India and South Africa. At the end of 2006, their respective shares in global coal reserves were estimated at:
- USA - 27.1%
- Russia - 17.3%
- China - 12.6%
- India - 10.2%
- Australia - 8.6%
Coal Industry: Consumption Trends
In 2007, coal catered to 26% of the global energy needs and almost 41% of the global electricity requirements. Coal is also used for producing heat through combustion. At the current consumption rate, the coal reserves are sufficient to generate electricity for a period of 300 years. Countries such as Poland, South Africa, Australia, China and Israel depend primarily on coal for their electricity generation. The contribution of coal in their total electricity generation is as follows:
- Poland - 93%
- South Africa - 93%
- Australia - 93%
- China - 78%
- Israel - 71%
Approximately, 17% of the total hard coal production is used by the steel industry. Nearly 70% of the global steel production depends on coal.
Aggressive research is being undertaken to increase efficiency in the coal industry, with focus on new strategies for gasification and CO2 capture. These efforts are aimed primarily at reducing the carbon content and greenhouse gas emissions responsible for global warming.
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