Which country has the most coal?

As of January 2020, the United States has the largest recoverable coal reserves with an estimated 252 billion short tons of coal remaining, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

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What is the biggest coal deposit in the United States?

The biggest coal deposit by volume is the Powder River Basin in Wyoming and Montana, which the USGS estimated to have 1.07 trillion short tons of in-place coal resources, 162 billion short tons of recoverable coal resources, and 25 billion short tons of economic coal resources (also called reserves) in 2013. The coal in the Powder River Basin is...

What are the types of coal?

There are four major types (or “ranks”) of coal. Rank refers to steps in a slow, natural process called “coalification,” during which buried plant matter changes into an ever denser, drier, more carbon-rich, and harder material. The four ranks are: Anthracite : The highest rank of coal. It is a hard, brittle, and black lustrous coal, often...

What is coal used for?

Coal is primarily used as fuel to generate electric power in the United States. In coal-fired power plants, bituminous coal, subbituminous coal, or lignite is burned. The heat produced by the combustion of the coal is used to convert water into high-pressure steam, which drives a turbine, which produces electricity. In 2019, about 23 percent of...

What is coal?

Coal is a sedimentary deposit composed predominantly of carbon that is readily combustible. Coal is black or brownish-black, and has a composition that (including inherent moisture) consists of more than 50 percent by weight and more than 70 percent by volume of carbonaceous material. It is formed from plant remains that have been compacted,...
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Date published: October 23, 2017

Assessments Evolved: USGS Coal Research in the 21st Century

Although often associated with helping fuel the Nation’s growth during the Industrial Revolution, coal is very much part of our space-age present. In 2016, coal-fired power plants provided 30.4 percent of the country’s electricity, and it is an important source of employment in many states.

Date published: May 8, 2001

Coalbed Methane Development and Impacts to be Discussed at USGS Field Conference

Federal, state and local policy makers will gather in Casper, Wyoming, on May 9-10 to examine science issues associated with the development of coalbed methane. The two-day conference and field trip, sponsored by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), will examine a number of topics including: what is coalbed methane, how it forms, where it occurs, how it is developed, and consequences of development.

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Image shows coal being loaded into trucks at a coal mine
December 31, 2016

Loading Coal in the Trapper Mine

Coal is loaded into trucks at the Trapper Mine in northwest Colorado.

Image shows four men in visibility gear and hard hats at a coal mine
June 30, 2016

The USGS Coal Assessment Project

Coal project personnel visiting Trapper Mine in northwest Colorado in June, 2016.

Emissions trading is one example of a market-based solution to an environmental problem. Image credit: Arnold Paul/Gralo via Wik
April 12, 2016


Image: Coal Mine
June 23, 2011

Coal Mine

Coal mine in Saskatchewan, Canada. Photo taken by USGS personnel on a Civil Air Patrol flight.

Image: NIPSCO Coal Power Plant Cooling Tower
October 31, 2002

NIPSCO Coal Power Plant Cooling Tower

View from a distance of the power plant cooling tower on the edge of Lake Michigan.

Attribution: Energy and Minerals
Image: Coal Burning Power Plant

Coal Burning Power Plant

A coal burning power plant.

Attribution: Energy and Minerals
Image: Coal Burning Power Plant

Coal Burning Power Plant

A coal burning power plant.

Attribution: Energy and Minerals

Coal mine in the Powder River Basin

Coal mine in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming and Montana

Attribution: Energy and Minerals
Image shows an excavator in front of a coal seam

Wyoming coal mine

A coal seam in a Wyoming mine. Credit: Bureau of Land Management