Difference Between Charcoal and Coal

Charcoal vs Coal

Charcoal consists of the element carbon. Carbonic compounds are abundant in plants, animals and other living organisms. Therefore, as they die, these carbonic compounds are ultimately converted to other carbonic compounds. Charcoal and coal are two such products.


When water and other volatile substances are removed from the carbonic compounds, the resulting product is charcoal. Charcoal is in the solid form, and it has a dark grey color. It contains ash; therefore, charcoal doesn’t have carbon in its pure form. Charcoal is mainly produced by pyrolysis. This is a method, where organic materials are decomposed at high temperatures in the absence of oxygen. Therefore, the chemical compositions and the physical phase of the matter will change very fast. For example, by heating wood we can obtain charcoal. There are few types of charcoal. They are as follows.

• Lump charcoal

• Extruded charcoal

• Japanese charcoal

• Briquettes

There are many usages to charcoal. It has a long history; from very old time charcoal has been used as a fuel. Today also it is used as an important fuel in homes and industries. Charcoal can produce high heat energy since charcoal burns at high temperatures. Charcoal is also added to soil to improve the soil quality. In medicine, charcoal is used to treat gastric problems. Though there are many usages, charcoal production has negative impacts on the environment. This is a threat to the forests as the rate of deforestation is becoming higher in areas where charcoal is produced.


Coal is a fossil fuel similar to natural gas and oil, which is in a solid rock form. Coal is formed by collecting plant debris in swamps. The process takes thousands of years. When plant materials are collected on swamps, they are degraded very slowly. Normally swamp water doesn’t have a higher oxygen concentration; therefore, micro organism density is low there, resulting in minimum degradation by micro organisms. Slow decaying of plant debris allows them to accumulate more in the swamps. When these are buried under sand or mud, the pressure and inside temperature convert the plant debris to coal slowly. To accumulate a large number of plant debris and for the decaying process, it takes a long time. Further, there should be suitable water levels and conditions to make this favorable. Thus, coal is considered as a non renewable natural resource, because, when coal is mined out and used, they cannot be regenerated again easily.

There are different types of coal. They are ranked based on their properties and composition. Such coal types are peat, lignite, sub bituminous, bituminous and anthracite. Peat is the lowest type of coal in the ranking list. It is formed from recently accumulated plant debris, and with further time, can be converted to coal.

Main economic usage of coal is to produce electricity. By burning coal, heat is obtained and then this heat energy is used to produce steam. Finally, electricity is produced by running a steam generator. Other than generating electricity, coal is used for generating power in many other occasions. From very earlier times, coal was used in factories, to run trains, as a household energy source, etc. Moreover, coal is used to produce coke, synthetic rubber, insecticides, paint products, solvents, medicine, etc.

What is the difference between Charcoal and Coal?

• Coal is a naturally resulting fossil fuel, whereas charcoal is produced by slow burning of carbon woods.

• Coal is a mineral, and charcoal is not.

• It takes over millions of years to produce coal, whereas charcoal can be produced easily.

• Charcoal produces more heat, and it is cleaner than coal.