Major Coal Producing Regions in the World

Coal is found on all inhabited continents of the world. It is very likely that coal is also on Antarctica, particularly when one looks at the coal-forming periods in history and the corresponding locations of the present-day continents. A review of the major coal-producing countries in the world is provided here, summarized by coal-producing region; specifically, the ten countries listed in Figure 1-7 are highlighted.

North America

The recoverable coal reserves of North America are the second largest in the world, with more than 282,000 million short tons identified (see Figure 1-7). Coal is found in the United States, Canada, Mexico, and, to a much lesser extent, Greenland (see Table 1-4).

United States The coal reserves of the United States are the largest of any country in the world: about 274,000 million short tons as of January 1, 2001 [2]. Recoverable coal reserves are found in 32 of the states, and the major coalfields are shown in Figure 1-8. The ten states with the largest recoverable coal reserves (listed in Table 1-5) contain approximately 89% of the total coal in the United States [16]. The top five states contain more than 70% of the total recoverable coal reserves in the United States.

Estimated low-sulfur recoverable coal reserves make up the largest portion of the total, at 36% [16]. Low-sulfur coal is defined as less than 0.8 and 0.5% by weight (as-received) sulfur for high-grade bituminous coal and high-grade lignite, respectively. These sulfur contents are a quantitative rating and have been correlated with U.S. sulfur emissions regulations from coal-fired power plants and the various stages of control that are required [16]. Estimated recoverable medium-sulfur reserves (0.8-2.2% for bituminous coal and 0.5-1.3% for lignite) and high-sulfur reserves (>2.2% for bituminous coal and >1.3% for lignite) account for 31 and 33% of the total, respectively.

The U.S. Geological Survey has divided the reserves into seven provinces: (1) Eastern Province; (2) Interior Province; (3) Gulf Province;

FIGURE 1-8. Major coal-bearing areas of the United States. (From EIA, U.S. Coal Reserves: 1997 Update, U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Information Administration, Washington, D.C., February 1999, p. 5, Appendix A.)

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