Global coal reserves (steam coal, coking coal, excluding lignite coal) are estimated to be almost 700 Bt (2013), which should last for another 115-120 years at current coal production levels. Reserves are part of total coal resources¹, which can be economically produced at the current state of technology. In comparison, estimation of oil and gas reserves are 50-55 and 60-65 years, respectively. Both, highly industrialized and developing countries have very large coal deposits.

Cumulative Coal Production, Reserves and Resources in 2013


Source: BGR (2014); Dr. Lars Schernikau: “Why Coal Continues to Power the World – Economics of the International Coal Trade”, Springer 2017.

In 2013, 7 Bt of coal were produced. This translates to a 90% increase compared to 25 years ago. The three biggest coal-producing nations are China, USA, and India. The largest share of global coal production is used locally for electricity generation and only 19%, some 1.349 Mt (2013), are traded internationally.

The five most important applications for coal are:

  • Electricity generation (70% of coal consumption)
  • Steel production (15% of coal consumption)
  • Cement production (3% of coal consumption)
  • Coal liquefaction
  • Other industrial applications, such as aluminium refineries, paper works, chemical and pharmaceutical industries.

¹ Resources are estimated to be over 17.600 Bt, which would allow for another 2.500 years at the current level of production.