Many non-energy industries depend on coal, including steel and cement production and coal-to-chemicals. Rare-earth element extraction, carbon fiber production and industrial electrodes are just a few.

Cement

Concrete is a crucial component of the construction industry. It can be mixed with gravel and water to make cement, a vital construction material.

Energy is necessary to produce cement. Energy is required from coal. The heat from a high-temperature furnace, often powered by coal, melts the calcium carbonate, silica and iron oxide raw materials to a partial melting point at 1450°C. This transforms them chemically and physically into the substance known as cement. Special compounds are found in this grey pebble-like material that cements its binding characteristics. To make cement, clinker is combined with gypsum.

Fly Ash and other coal combustion products (CCPs) play an important part in cement manufacturing and the construction industry in general.

Aluminum

The main energy source for the production of aluminum is coal. This non-ferrous metal is well-known for its lightweight and can be found in many cars, trains and planes. More than 60% of the energy required to make aluminum is coal.

Transportation

Both coal-based electricity and coal-derived fuels play an important role in meeting the increasing energy requirements of the transport sector. Coal is an important raw material for manufacturing materials used in the construction of transport infrastructure. However, coal-based electricity can also play a significant role in electrification.

The liquid fuels made from coal can be a viable alternative for conventional oil products. They can also be used in existing supply infrastructure. China is developing several coal-to-liquids demonstration plants, while South Africa has liquid fuels derived from coal. These fuels provide 30% of South Africa’s transportation fuel needs. CTL plants also produce more than 160,000 barrels per day from coal.

Hydrogen

Many industries use hydrogen as a liquid and gas every day, including transport, petroleum, and manufacturing processes for chemicals, food, and electronics.

Coal gasification is a simple and versatile method to convert coal into hydrogen or other valuable products. Gasification is a process that breaks down coal into its basic chemical constituents. Modern gasifiers expose coal to steam, oxygen and controlled pressures at high temperatures. These conditions cause coal molecules to break down, resulting in chemical reactions that produce synthesis gas (syngas), hydrogen and carbon monoxide, among other gases. The hydrogen can then easily be captured and stored. Twenty percent of hydrogen production is achieved through the coal-to-gas process.

Australia has adopted hydrogen production strategies that use lignite as the primary product source –

  • The proposed Australian lignite gasification project would make synthetic gas burn coal under high pressure. It then converts the carbon monoxide into carbon dioxide using steam and separates the hydrogen.

Other non-energy uses

Alumina refineries, paper producers, and the chemical and pharmaceutical industries are all important users of coal.

Coal is an important ingredient in the manufacture of specialty products. This includes activated carbon used in water purification filters and kidney dialysis machines, as well as carbon fiber, which is a lightweight, strong material used in construction.

It is also used to produce silanes and silicon metal, which are used to make cosmetics, shampoos, kinds of toothpaste, water repellents, resins and cosmetics.

Many chemical products can be made from coal byproducts in the coal-to–chemicals (CTC). Refined coal Tar is used to make creosote oil (naphthalene), phenol and benzene. The coke ovens contain ammonia gas, which is used to manufacture ammonia salts and nitric acids. Many products use coal or coal byproducts in their components. These include soap, aspirins and solvents, dyes, plastics, and fibers like rayon and nylon.

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