Coal Glossary

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Alternative fuels
  • Fuels that can be used in place of fossil fuels, such as ethanol, biodiesel, biogas, hydrogen. In motor transportation, compressed natural gas is an alternative to gasoline.
  • The hardest, most organically mature coal, having the highest carbon content and lowest water content
  • Actions taken by staff or a third party to help measure a company’s compliance with legislation and internal requirements, and to identify opportunities for improvement. Audits can involve field inspections, interviews with management and document review.

  • Flammable, colourless to light yellow volatile aromatic hydrocarbon. A byproduct of cokemaking and other industrial processes, benzene is considered to be a carcinogenic (cancer-causing) substance.
  • Refers to the variety of ecosystems and animal, bird, fish and plant species.
Bituminous coal
  • The second hardest, most organically mature coal, ranking between sub-bituminous coal and anthracite
Bottom ash
  • Heavier ash that collects in the bottom of the boiler after coal is burned. This ash is collected and stockpiled in approved disposal areas.

Climate change
  • Term used to describe the view that the Earth’s temperature and climate will change, in part, due to the buildup of greenhouse gas emissions from human activities.
  • A hydrocarbon-based fossil fuel composed of the remains of land plants which have been transformed into a solid mass of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen through heat and pressure resulting from burial

Coalbed methane
  • Natural gas generated during the coalification process and trapped within coal seams, commonly referred to as natural gas from coal
  • A high carbon material resembling fine ground up asphalt material. It is a by-product of fuel coking
Coke oven gas
  • Gas generated when volatile materials are driven out of coal during the coking process. Coke oven gas can be used as a fuel in steelmaking to offset purchases of natural gas and oil
  • Process of heating coal in a coke oven in the absence of air to high temperatures between 1,000° C and 1,100° C for 16 to 20 hours to produce a very pure form of carbon.
    Also refers to removing carbon from bitumen to produce lighter hydrocarbons
Cumulative effects
  • Changes to the environment caused by an activity in combination with other past, present and reasonably foreseeable human activities.

Dispute resolution
  • Process to resolve conflicts in mutually beneficial ways, using techniques such as negotiation or third-party mediation instead of public hearings or courts
  • Large electrically powered mobile machine, with bucket suspended from the end of a long boom, used in open pit mining

Fossil fuel
  • Fuels sourced from plant and animal matter that have undergone transformation through heat and pressure.

Greenhouse effect
  • The warming of the Earth’s surface caused by the presence of carbon dioxide and other gases, known as greenhouse gases, in the atmosphere that trap the heat of the sun.
Greenhouse gases
  • Gases that trap heat near the Earth’s surface. These include carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and water vapor. These gases occur through natural processes (such as ocean currents, cloud cover, volcanoes) and human activities (such as the burning of fossil fuels).

  • Site designed for disposal of solid or chemical wastes by burial. It may be an open pit or an engineered facility that includes special linings to prevent wastes from leaking into water supplies.
  • The lowest ranked coal, organically immature with high water content and low carbon content; also called brown coal. Lignite is used to generate most of Saskatchewan's electricity.

Longwall mining
  • An underground coal mining method wherein hydraulic supports are used to brace the mine roof while large machines cut and remove the coal from the coal face; once a seam is mined out, the hydraulic supports are removed and the roof is allowed to collapse

Manufactured gas
  • A gas obtained by destructive distillation of coal, by the thermal decomposition of oil, or by the reaction of steam passing through a bed of heated coal or coke. Examples are coal gases, coke or oven gases, producer gas, blast furnace gas, blue (water) gas, or carbureted water gas. Also known as syngas.
Metallurgical coal
  • Various grades of coal suitable for steelmaking. These include coking coal (bituminous), used to make coke, and non-coking coal (bituminous and anthracite), which is pulverized and injected into a blast furnace as a heat source in steelmaking

National Energy Board (NEB)
  • The federal regulatory agency in Canada that authorizes oil, natural gas, and electricity exports; certifies interprovincial and international pipelines, and designated interprovincial and international power lines; and sets tolls and tariffs for oil and gas pipelines under federal jurisdiction.
Non-renewable resources
  • Natural resources that cannot be replaced after they have been consumed. This term applies particularly to fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas, but also applies to other mineral resources found in the Earth's crust.

Open pit
  • A method of surface mining where the coal seams or oil sands are too deep for strip mining but accessible from deep excavations

  • Bedrock which is exposed at the earth’s surface


Particulate matter
  • Dust, ash, soot, metals and other solid or liquid particles released into the air. Particulate matter comes from natural sources (such as forest fires and volcanoes) and human sources (such as burning of fossil fuels, dust from mining operations, road dust and wood stoves). Particulate matter can cause eye, nose and throat irritation and other health problems.
  • Plant remains that are a precursor to coal
  • The process by which plants convert carbon dioxide and water into oxygen and carbohydrates.
Public interest
  • Usually intended to mean the interest of the public generally as opposed to the interest of an individual or company.

  • Restoring the landscape to its original contours after surface mining operations are complete
Renewable energy
  • Naturally occurring energy sources that are continually replenished. Examples of renewable energy are wind, solar and water.
Room and pillar mining
  • An underground mining method wherein sizeable volumes of coal are removed (rooms) leaving large pillars of coal to support the mine roof

Seismic method
  • A method of mapping subsurface structures using data derived from transmitting acoustic energy into the earth and recording the energy reflected back from subsurface geological boundaries.
  • Brown summer haze that intermittently forms over some cities. It is comprised of ground-level ozone (nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds and fine particulates). Smog can be created by natural processes (such as forest fires and volcanoes) or human activities (such as the burning of fossil fuels). The name is derived from SMoke and fOG.
  • People with an interest in industry activities that affect them. They may include nearby landowners, Aboriginal communities, recreational land users, other industries, environmental groups, governments and regulators.
Strip mining
  • A method of surface mining used where the coal seams are very shallow and laterally extensive
Sub-bituminous coal
  • Black coal softer than bituminous but harder than lignite; used in Alberta to generate most of the province’s electricity
Sulphur oxides (SOx)
  • Gases produced mostly from human activities (such as metal smelting, and fossil fuel combustion by factories, power plants and motor vehicles). Sulphur dioxide combines with water vapor to form sulphuric acid, a contributor to acid rain. Human exposure to sulphur dioxide emissions can also cause respiratory problems.
  • Ecosystem condition in which biodiversity, renewability and resource productivity are maintained over time.
Sustainable development
  • Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs (as defined by United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development).
  • A fuel produced from solid hydrocarbons such as coal and petroleum coke. The process uses steam, air and controlled amounts of oxygen to break the solid down, and the resulting gas consists of vaying amounts of carbon monoxide and hydrogen.

Thermal coal
  • Coal used for heating or to produce electricity in thermal power plants; can be anthracite, bituminous or lignite.
Thermal electricity
  • Electricity generated from burning fossil fuels such as coal, natural gas and refined petroleum products; biomass such as wood, wood waste, pulping liquors and landfill methane; or other waste materials such as used tires.

Unconventional natural gas
  • In the case of natural gas from coal, natural gas from tight sands and shale gas, conventional gas found in unconventional reservoirs or reservoirs requiring special production methods or technologies; in the case of gas hydrates, conventional methane in an unconventional form occurring in a conventional reservoir

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
  • Gases and vapours, such as benzene, released by petroleum refineries, petrochemical plants, plastics manufacturing and the distribution and use of gasoline; VOCs include carcinogens and chemicals that react with sunlight and nitrogen oxides to form ground-level ozone, a component of smog.