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All about Coal - Research Paper Example

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I. Introduction Although perceived as difficult to obtain and been the cause of hundreds of deaths In the last 500 years, coal is still a valuable resource in today’s economy. In the following pages, I will discuss several things in reference to coal. I will cover a history of coal itself, as well as the how, wherefore and why of its existence…
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Download file to see previous pages The reason for the gathering of coal was primarily for household uses, namely heat. It was later discovered that it played an important role with its heating capabilities in smelting, alloy production and the generation of electricity. Sir George Bruce created a loading island where he sank a shaft connected to two others for drainage purposes and ventilation. This form of technology was extraordinary in coal mining during medieval times, often considered an industrial wonder of the time. In the 17th century many advances in the techniques used for mining were discovered, including test boring and drainage of the collieries, to allow the coal to be brought to the surface easier and more safely. Definition Merriam-Webster (2011) defines coal as “a piece of glowing carbon or charred wood”. This is a curious definition, as most would think of coal as simply a dirty, black rock that creates heat and is great for summer barbecues. The fact that it is defined as “glowing” and “charred wood” leave the mind to wonder how was coal formed then? If it is already “charred wood”, why would we use it? It’s already been burned up, so what use can it be? The answer lies in the reason and process through which coal was formed. How coal was formed The formation of coal began around 300 million years ago, while most of the earth was covered by swamps, giant ferns and different mosses. Layer after layer of these plants died and subsequently were compressed and covered with new soil. As these new layers of soil covered the dead plants, the lack of air stopped the decomposition processes of the plants. This created peat, and throughout the years with heat and extensive pressure, it forced out oxygen and hydrogen, leaving carbon-rich deposits known as coal. As the carbon content of the coal increases, its compression is increased and the moisture content drops further. Thusly, there are four types of coal that form in subsequent order, each with its own grading scale, known as a “rank” (Speight, 2005). ( III. Four Categories of Coal The four categories of coal are lignite, subbituminous, bituminous and anthracite. Each one has its own ranking, based on the degree of which the original plant materials have been turned into carbon. These ranks are also used an estimation of how old the coal is. In general, the older the coal, the higher the carbon content. Lignite coal is the youngest of the four, and is most often used in the generation of electric power. It is a brownish black color and has a high moisture and sulphur content. It is more similar to soil than rocks and has a tendency to fragment when exposed to the elements. Subbituminous coal is often referred to as black lignite, although its moisture content is lower. It is also used for the generation of electricity, but also used for heating. Bituminous coal is a soft coal. iIt is dense and black with stripes of vibrant and dull materials. This is the most commonly found and used type of coal, for coke (a residue of coal used in the steel industry), electricity, and heating as well. The last of the four, anthracite coal, is the hardest, oldest and best of the four types. It is black, glossy and very hard like a rock. It has the lowest sulphur content and the highest carbon ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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