December 8, 2023
Thermal Coal and Metallurgical Coal

Thermal Coal and Metallurgical Coal Interesting 10 Difference you should know

Thermal coal and metallurgical coal can be described as two separate varieties of coal that have vastly different uses and properties. Thermal coal powers electricity generation, while metallurgical coal is essential for high-quality steel production.

Thermal coal, commonly referred to as steam coal used to generate electricity for power plants. It has a high calorific value which makes it an efficient source of heating and electricity. The process of burning thermal coal emits greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change.

The coal metallurgical, also known as coking coal is essential in the process of making steel. It has the right properties to make coke, which is a crucial component in the manufacturing of steel. Metallurgical coal should have a low sulfur and ash content, as well as the ability to coke. It is a key component in the steel industry, which is the basis for manufacturing, construction, as well as infrastructure development.

Thermal coal is used in energy production, whereas metallurgical coal is vital for the production of steel and has its own industrial needs with different physical and chemical properties.

What is Thermal Coal?

It is referred to by the name steam coal is a form of coal used to produce electricity. It’s referred to as “thermal” because it is burnt to create heat. This is then utilized to create steam. The steam is utilized to drive turbines that are connected to generators and generate electricity.

Thermal Coal
Figure 01: Thermal Coal

Thermal coal is coveted due to its calorific value is quite high and can produce a substantial amount of energy upon burning and is a great option to generate power. Thermal coal comes in many qualities and grades and its properties can differ, based on factors like the content of sulfur, moisture content, and the amount of ash.

Its quality will affect its efficiency as well as environmental impact when it is used in power plants. It is an essential energy resource for several countries, its use is also linked to environmental issues due to carbon emissions once it is burned.

What is Metallurgical Coal?

Metallurgical coal, commonly known as coking coal is a specific kind of coking coal that plays an essential role in the manufacturing of steel. In contrast to thermal coal, which is mostly used to generate electricity, metallurgical coal is essential to the process of making steel.

Metallurgical Coal
Figure 02: Metallurgical Coal

Its unique characteristic is its coking power which permits it to be heated to a certain manner that transforms it into coke. It is an impermeable and carbon-rich substance that is an essential component in the blast furnace process employed to produce steel as well as iron.

It is also required to be low in sulfur and ash levels to keep impurities from adversely affecting the production process. It’s an essential element in the steel industry and supports various applications like automotive manufacturing, construction, and infrastructure development. It’s an essential resource for manufacturing and metallurgy.

What are the properties of Thermal Coal and Metallurgical Coal?

Thermal Coal Properties:

  • Calculated Value: Thermal coal has typically a high calorific value. This implies that it releases substantial amounts of energy when it is burned. This makes it efficient in the generation of electricity.
  • Moisture Content: Thermal coal’s moisture content varies but it is usually more than metallic coal. A high moisture content may reduce the energy content of coal.
  • Sulfur Content: Thermal coal may contain varying levels of sulfur generally more so and can result in sulfur dioxide emissions when it is burned which can cause air pollution.
  • Ash Content: Thermal coal can include a range of Ash content, with some types with more. Ash is a source of emission and waste when used to generate power.

Metallurgical Coal Properties:

  • Coking Capabilities: Metallurgical coal is mostly valued because of its ability to coke. It is heated in a particular manner to convert it into coke, which is a porous, carbon-rich substance that is used in the process of making steel.
  • Low Ash content: A low ash content is essential in metallurgical coal as impurities that are present in the ash could negatively impact the steel manufacturing process.
  • Low sulfur content: A low sulfur level is needed in metallurgical coals to prevent the contamination of steel with sulfur, which may affect its properties.
  • Volatile Matter: Metallurgical coal usually contains a certain amount of volatile matter. This is crucial in this coking procedure.

What is the importance of Thermal Coal and Metallurgical Coal in energy?

Importance of Thermal Coal in Energy:

  • Electricity Generation: The thermal coal industry is an essential source of energy for the production of electricity across the world. The high calorific value of coal makes it a highly efficient and economical fuel for power plants.
  • Dependability: The thermal power plant provides power at baseload which means they can be continuously operating, ensuring the stability and reliability of energy supply. This is vital for meeting the energy needs of the home industry, businesses, and households.
  • Accessibility: Thermal coal is generally plentiful and cheap, making it a cost-effective option for nations looking to fulfill their power requirements while reducing cost.

But, the importance of thermal coal for energy has to be weighed against environmental issues. Its combustion produces greenhouse gases as well as other pollutants that contribute to climate change as well as air quality concerns.

Importance of Metallurgical Coal in Energy:

Metallurgical coal is not an energy source directly but a vital component in energy-related industries and infrastructure:

  • Steel Production: Coal used in the metallurgical process is vital in the production of top-quality steel. Steel is an important material that is used in a variety of energy-related industries, such as the construction of transmission towers, power plants pipelines, and pipelines, as well as the production of renewable energy equipment including wind turbines, solar panels, and solar cells.
  • Construction of Infrastructure: The energy sector depends on a strong infrastructure in which metallurgical coal plays a vital role to the construction of infrastructure projects to support the energy sector including bridge construction, buildings, transport systems, and bridges.
  • Renewable Energy Equipment: Despite the transition to more sustainable and clean energy sources the construction of infrastructure and equipment that generate renewable energy relies on the steel that is made from metallurgical coal.

Uses of Thermal Coal and Metallurgical Coal

Thermal coal and metallurgical coal have distinct industrial applications because of their distinct characteristics.

Here’s a brief overview of their main applications:

Thermal Coal:

  • Electricity Generation: The most common use for thermal coal which is also referred to in steam coal to provide the generation of electricity. It is used at power stations to generate steam, which powers generators that are connected to turbines which generate electricity. Thermal coal’s calorific content is high which makes it a great fuel to be used for this purpose.
  • Heating: Sometimes thermal coal is utilized to direct heat for industrial boilers or residential heating systems.
  • Industrial processes: Coal is employed in many industrial applications which include cement manufacturing as well as a source of heat for different processes.

Metallurgical Coal (Coking Coal):

  • Steel Production: Metallurgical coal, commonly known as coking coal is used primarily in the process of making steel. It is a key ingredient in the manufacture of coke, which is a porous, carbon-rich substance. Coke is utilized in blast furnaces to reduce iron ore into iron, which is later transformed into steel. The coal used in the metallurgical process plays a crucial part in the manufacturing of high-quality steel that is used in the manufacturing of automobiles, construction infrastructure development, and many others.
  • Additional Industrial Applications: Although the steel sector is indeed the largest consumer of metallurgical coal it is also able to find uses in different industries like for the manufacture and use of some chemicals.

Thermal Coal vs Metallurgical Coal – Key Difference

Here’s a comparison chart highlighting the key differences between Thermal Coal and Metallurgical Coal:

Characteristic Thermal Coal Metallurgical Coal
Primary Use Electricity generation Steel production
Heat Generation Used for heat and electricity Used to create coke for steel
Calorific Value Relatively high Not a significant factor
Moisture Content Can vary, but typically higher Lower moisture content
Sulfur Content Can vary, often higher Low sulfur content required
Ash Content Can vary, often higher Low ash content required
Coking Ability Not applicable High coking ability required
Market Demand Dependent on energy needs Dependent on steel industry
Environmental Impact Greenhouse gas emissions Relatively lower emissions
Major Producers Various countries Concentrated in key regions

What are the environmental effects of Thermal Coal and Metallurgical Coal?

Thermal Coal:

  • Greenhouse Gas emission: Burning thermal coal for electricity generation is a significant source of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. These emissions are a major cause of global warming and climate change. Along with CO2 thermal coal combustion emits various other pollutants, like Nitrogen oxides (NOx) and sulfur dioxide (SO2) which could cause smog, acid rain, and respiratory health problems.
  • Air quality: Thermal coal combustion may also release particulate matter as well as other air pollutants, affecting the quality of air in the local area and the health of the public. The sulfur content and ash content in thermal coal are both contributing to these problems.
  • Water Pollution: Coal mining and removal of coal ash could pollute water sources, affecting the ecosystems of aquatic life and pose risks to the health of humans. Leaching of heavy metals out of coal ash is particularly challenging.

Metallurgical Coal:

  • Lower Greenhouse Gas Emissions: Metallurgical coal cannot be burned directly to generate electricity, therefore it has a smaller carbon footprint directly on greenhouse gas emissions when compared with thermal coal. It does contribute to greenhouse gas emissions via the process of making steel.
  • Reduction of Air Pollution: Because metallurgical coal does not directly combust to generate energy, it is not able to emit pollutants such as NOx and SO2 into the air as the thermal coal industry does. The process of making steel has its environmental responsibilities, it differs from the emissions of power generation.
  • Environmental Impacts from Mining: The mining of metallurgical coal can cause local environmental effects, such as the destruction of habitats, pollution of waterways as well and soil degrading. But, these effects tend to be associated with the extraction process, not the final use.

How does heat change the chemical structure of coal?

  • The release of volatiles: When coal gets heated it goes through several chemical reactions. The initial phase of pyrolysis is burning volatile elements from the coal, such as gasses like methane, hydrogen, and ethylene in addition to other solid as well as liquid byproducts.
  • Coke Formation: With continued heating the solid residue undergoes another transformation. Carbonization takes place, which leads to coke formation which is a porous and carbon-rich substance. Coke is useful for various industrial processes, for instance, steelmaking.
  • Chemical Composition Changes: The high temperatures reduce the complex organic compounds found in coal. Oxygen, hydrogen, and various other elements are removed and the result is a more carbon-rich, less complicated structure. This reduces the amount of moisture and volatile matter as well as contaminants in the coal.
  • More Carbon Content: The final product from this process is called coke composed mainly of carbon. The high content of carbon and low impurities make it a beneficial material for many uses, particularly in industries like steel production.


The devastating effect of climate change should be neutralized by planting more and more trees. We can not stop producing electricity, steel, iron, etc because of the devastating effect of climate change by the effect of greenhouse with Thermal and Metallurgical coal production. We should take care of our planet.