The Open University since 2006
Alternatively you can skip the navigation by pressing 'Enter'.
BBC Inside Science - 2016/2017 series: Rosetta's comet touchdown finaleThursday, 29th September 2016 16:30 - BBC Radio 4The ESA's Rosetta mission is about to finish so Adam Rutherford looks at how the crash will happen. Read more: BBC Inside Science - 2016/2017 series: Rosetta's comet touchdown finale
Scotland and The Battle for Britain: Episode 1Available until Friday, 28th October 2016 03:05Andrew Marr discovers why the Scotland he was born in has changed so much politically. Read more: Scotland and The Battle for Britain: Episode 1
Life Story: ParenthoodAvailable until Sunday, 30th October 2016 01:00
Life Story: CourtshipAvailable until Sunday, 23rd October 2016 01:25
BBC Inside Science - 2016/2017 series: What's left to explore?Available for over a year
World Heart Day 2016Today is World Heart Day. Find out all about your ticker with our free courses and activities... Read more: World Heart Day 2016
Take the photographic memory testCan you capture scenes just by looking at them? Find out with our photographic memory test. Launch now: Take the photographic memory test
Digital literacy: succeeding in a digital worldThis free course, Digital literacy: succeeding in a digital world, will develop your confidence... Try: Digital literacy: succeeding in a digital world now
Introduction to bookkeeping and accountingLearn about the essential numerical skills required for accounting and bookkeeping. This free... Try: Introduction to bookkeeping and accounting now
During the Industrial Revolution half of the world's coal came from Britain. We still rely heavily on it today to meet our energy needs, but now we import more than we produce. Burning it introduces large amounts of gases into the atmosphere that harm the environment in a variety of ways. In this free course, Energy resources: Coal, it will become apparent that the most appealing quality of coal is that there is plenty of it.
After studying this course, you should be able to:
- explain how coal is formed
- explain how coal is found and extracted by either surface or underground mines
- discuss how geological problems and environmental issues surrounding extraction affect mining
- explain the reasons for the decline in the UK’s coal industry.
- Current section: Introduction
- Learning outcomes
- 1 The origins of coal
- 1.1 Introduction
- 1.2 The origins of coal
- 1.3 Coal-forming environments today
- 1.4 Coal-forming environments in the geological record
- 1.5 The physics and chemistry of coal formation
- 1.6 Impurities in coal
- 1.7 How old is coal?
- 2 Finding and extracting coal
- 2.1 Finding and extracting coal
- 2.2 Winning coal in former times
- 2.3 Exploring for coal
- 2.4 Modern mine planning
- 2.5 Surface mining
- 2.6 Underground mining
- 2.7 Geological problems in coal mines
- 3 Environmental aspects of coal mining
- 4 Global coal reserves
- 5 Coal production in the UK early in the 21st century
- Keep on learning
Study this free course
Enrol to access the full course, get recognition for the skills you learn, track your progress and on completion gain a statement of participation to demonstrate your learning to others. Make your learning visible!
Energy resources: Coal
There are many environmental reasons why coal is a rather undesirable source of energy. Burning it introduces large amounts of gases into the atmosphere that harm the enviironment in a variety of ways, as well as other, sollid waste products. Coal extraction leads to spoil heaps and mines that scar the landscape, land subsidence that affects roads and buildings, and in some cases water pollution.
With apparently so little going for it, why do we rely so much on coal to meet our energy needs? In this course, it will become apparent that the most appealing quality of coal is that there is plenty of it. Coal is twice as important globally as any other fuel in generating electricity, and could remain so for the next 200 years. That is reassuring for a future where energy demands continue to increasde and when the alternatives to coal are currently looking less dependable. The downside is that continued burning of coal could have dire consequences for the environment inthe coming centuries, unless 'cleaner' ways can be found to harness energy from it.
This course explores the basics: what coal is, how and where found, and how it is extracted at a variety of depths below the surface. Another important theme concerns the distribution of coal reserves and resources, and the control exerted on them by both economics and politics.
This OpenLearn course provides a sample of level 2 study in
This free course includes adapted extracts from an Open University course which is no longer available to new students. If you found this interesting you could explore more free Environmental Science courses or view the range of currently available OU Environmental Science courses.
Copyright & revisions
Originally published: Tuesday, 22nd March 2016
Last updated on: Tuesday, 22nd March 2016
- Creative-Commons: The Open University is proud to release this free course under a Creative Commons licence. However, any third-party materials featured within it are used with permission and are not ours to give away. These materials are not subject to the Creative Commons licence. See terms and conditions. Full details can be found in the Acknowledgements and our FAQs section.
- This site has Copy Reuse Tracking enabled - see our FAQs for more information.
If you enjoyed this, why not follow a feed to find out when we have new things like it? Choose an RSS feed from the list below. (Don't know what to do with RSS feeds?)
Remember, you can also make your own, personal feed by combining tags from around OpenLearn.
- Latest OpenLearn pages
- Latest pages from OpenLearn - Environmental Science
- Latest pages tagged - industrial accidents
- Latest pages tagged - road safety
- Latest pages tagged - workers
- Latest pages tagged - private education
- Latest pages tagged - ethics
- Latest pages tagged - detox
- Latest pages tagged - neonatal
- Latest pages tagged - L194
- Latest pages tagged - food shopping
- Latest pages tagged - ordering food
- Latest pages tagged - internal combustion engines
- Latest comments on this page
All our alternative formats are free for you to download, for more information about the different formats we offer please see our FAQs. The most frequently used are Word (for accessibility), PDF (for print) and ePub and Kindle to download to eReaders*.
- Word (3.8 MB)
- PDF (4.9 MB)
- ePub 3.0 (3.2 MB)
- ePub 2.0 (3.2 MB)
- Kindle (1.1 MB)
- RSS (380 KB)
- HTML (2.9 MB)
- SCORM (2.9 MB)
- OUXML Package (47 KB)
- OUXML File (149 KB)
- IMS Common cartridge
*Please note you will need an ePub and Mobi reader for these formats.