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Title:  Coal Quiz
Level:  Primary/Middle
Time:  1 Class Period

Objective:  

Students will review basic facts about coal and display their knowledge.

Background Information:

What is Coal?

Coal is a burnable carbonaceous rock, which means it is a rock that contains organic matter (plant and animal residues) and lots of carbon and other elements (hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen, among others).  But is also has various amounts of mineral matter, and is also considered a mineral of organic origin.  Coal is also a fossil fuel – a substance containing the remains of once-living plants and animals that can be burned to release energy.

How was/is coal formed?

During the carboniferous period of geologic time (280 to 345 million years ago) scientists believe that great quantities of vegetation and other organic matter collected and underwent slow decomposition.  This occurred mainly in swamps and in lagoons and a spongy, brown material called peat was formed.  Geologic forces buried the peat deep under the Earth’s surface and layers of peat were further compacted by heat and pressure.  The compressed peat was eventually converted to coal. The greater the heat and pressure, the harder the coal is.

What are the four (4) major types of coal?

Lignite – A brownish-black coal with generally high moisture and ash content, and the lowest carbon content and heating value.

Sub-Bituminous – A dull black coal with a higher heating value.

Bituminous – A soft, intermediate grade of coal that is the most common and most widely used in the United States.

Anthracite – The hardest type of coal, consisting of nearly pure carbon. Anthracite has the highest heating value and lowest moisture and ash content.

Where is coal found?

Proven coal deposits exist on every continent, including Antarctica.  The United States has the world’s largest supply of recoverable or mineable reserves, accounting for about 24 percent of total reserves.  Coal is found in 38 states and nearly one-eighth of the country lies over coal beds.  Top coal mining states include: Montana, Illinois, Wyoming, West Virginia, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Colorado, Texas and Indiana.

How plentiful is coal?

Coal is far more plentiful than domestic oil or natural gas, making up about 95 percent of America’s fossil energy reserves.  Total U.S. coal resources – deposits that are both known and believed to exist – are estimated at nearly four trillion tons.  The known coal likely to be mined in the foreseeable future is some 494 billion tons.  The amount of demonstrated reserves considered recoverable with current technology is more than 296 billion tons – enough to last over 300 years at current levels of use.

How is coal mined?

There are two basic ways to mine coal.  Surface mining is used when coal is found close to the surface or on hillsides.  This method essentially involves removing the overburden (earth and rock covering the coal) with heavy earth moving equipment, scooping out the coal, replacing the excavated soil and reestablishing vegetation and plant life, a process known as reclamation.  The advantages of surface mining are many.  Where it can be used, it permits recovery of 90 percent or more of the coal to be mined.

Underground mining is used to extract coal lying deep beneath the Earth’s surface or in seams exposed on hillsides.  The coal is reached by drilling two openings into the coal bed to transport workers and equipment and to send coal to the surface.  Both openings serve to circulate air in the mine.  Coal is then broken up and mined by one of several methods:

Conventional mining – The older practice of using explosives to break up a coal seam.

Continuous mining – A huge machine with a large rotating steel drum equipped with tungsten carbide teeth scrapes coal from a seam at high speeds.

Long wall mining – A cutting machine with a large rotating steel drum, which is dragged back and forth across a “long wall” or seam of coal.  The loosened coal falls onto a conveyer belt for removal from the work area.  After coal is extracted it is removed by automatic extraction systems that cut the coal, which is loaded on shuttle cars to a central loading area in the mine or placed on belt conveyors, which remove coal to the surface.

What is reclamation?

As coal is removed from one section of a surface mine, the land at another part is returned, regraded and replanted so it will be as good as or better than it was before mining began.  This process is called reclamation.  Because of it, modern surface mining is a temporary land use, involving not just excavation or extraction of the coal, but also restoration and return of the land to productive use.  Reclaimed land has been successfully used for wildlife preserves, golf courses, recreational parks, commercial development sites, pasture land, native habitats and productive farmland.  Since the mid-1970’s, over two million acres of mined lands owned by coal producers have been reclaimed and an additional 100,000 acres of abandoned mines (remnants of neglect from a bygone mining era earlier in the 20th century) have also been reclaimed using money paid by today’s coal producers into a national trust fund.

What is coal used for?

Coal’s primary use is for the generation of electricity.  In fact, coal generates 56 percent of the electricity consumed in America each day, far more than any other energy source.  Worldwide, it provides 40 percent of total electricity generation.  Coal is also used in the industrial and retail sector as a fuel for heating and powering foundries, cement plants and other industrial and manufacturing facilities.  A number of electric power plants also use coal to produce steam for generating electricity and for heating. Coal is still used in the iron and steel industry.  However, the domestic use of coke (a substance made by heating coal to very high temperatures) has decreased due to changes in blast furnace and steel-making technologies as well as in shift in steel demand. Coal from the United States is exported to more than 40 countries around the world and contributes some $3.5 billion annually on the positive side of our balance of payments.  Currently, Canada, Japan, and Italy are among the biggest customers receiving shipments of U.S. coal.

Why is coal used to generate electricity?

Coal is used to generate electricity because it’s reliable and a low-cost energy source produced in compatibility with our nation’s environmental laws.  Today 23 of the 25 lowest operating cost electric generation power plants in America are fueled by coal.  The relatively low cost of coal-fired electricity has given the United States an important advantage in a world marketplace that has become increasingly competitive.  Inexpensive electricity leads to lower operating costs for businesses, which ultimately boosts the economy, helps moderate inflation and increases competitiveness.

How is coal transported?

Shipping coal to market is a big business.  Most coal sent from mine to market travels either by rail or by barge.  Trucks and covered conveyors systems are used to move coal over shorter distances.  There is even a coal slurry pipeline (which mixes coal with water and sends it through a metal tube to its destination) connecting a mine in Arizona with a power plant in Nevada that handles several million tons annually.  Lake carriers and ocean vessels move large coal shipments over the Great Lakes and overseas.

Activity:

Coal Quiz - Test your coal knowledge.  See how many of the following 10 questions you can answer correctly.  Circle the correct answer.

Question 1:What percentage of the total net electricity generated in America each day is represented by coal?
 a.
b.
c.
d.
72 percent
56 percent
31 percent
25 percent
Question 2:The hardest type of coal, consisting of nearly pure carbon, is:
 a.
b.
c.
d.
lignite
bituminous
anthracite
sub-bituminous
Question 3:
 
Energy fuels, such as coal, crude oil and natural gas, formed from the fossil remains of organic materials, are called:
 a.
b.
c.
d.
renewable fuels
carbonaceous fuels
sedimentary fuels
fossil fuels
Question 4:How much coal is needed to supply enough electricity to light ten 100-watt bulbs for about an hour?
 a.
b.
c.
d.
10 pounds
1 pound
100 pounds
500 pounds
Question 5:
 
Which huge earth-moving machine is important in the surface mining process as it excavates the overburden, or soil covering the coal deposit?
a.
b.
c.
d.
haul trucks
continuous miner
dragline
longwall miner
Question 6:Reclamation, the restoration of land and environmental values to a mining site, generally occurs:
a.
b.
c.
d.
after the mining process is completed
after excavation
after extraction
after excavation and extraction, even as production operations are taking place elsewhere at the mine site
Question 7:What percentage of total U.S. deep coal mine production is accounted for by longwall mining?
a.
b.
c.
d.
48 percent
10 percent
35 percent
60 percent
Question 8:Which two transportation means move nearly two-thirds of all U.S. coal shipments?
a.
b.
c.
d.
railroads and barges
railroads and trucks
trucks and covered conveyor systems
barges and coal slurry pipelines
Question 9:Which state has the largest demonstrated coal reserves?
a.
b.
c.
d.
Pennsylvania
Montana
West Virginia
Illinois
Question 10:The second largest market for coal is:
a.
b.
c.
d.
electricity generation
export
the iron and steel industry
the industrial and retail sector
Answers:
Question 1:


 
What percentage of the total net electricity generated in America each day is represented by coal?

The correct answer is b - 56 percent.
Coal generates 56 percent of the electricity consumed in America each day.

Question 2:


 
The hardest type of coal, consisting of nearly pure carbon, is:

The correct answer is c - anthracite.
Anthracite is the hardest type of coal; it has the highest heating value and lowest moisture and ash content.

Question 3:
 
Energy fuels, such as coal, crude oil and natural gas, formed from the fossil remains of organic materials, are called:
The correct answer is d - fossil fuels.

Coal, oil and natural gas are fossil fuels - substances containing the remains of once living plants and animals that can be burned to release energy.

Question 4:How much coal is needed to supply enough electricity to light ten 100-watt bulbs for about an hour?
The correct answer is b- 1 pound.

One kilowatt-hour (KwH) equals 1,000 watts of electricity used for one hour.  One KwH is the amount of electricity that one 100-watt bulb will use in 10 hours.  A pound of coal supplies enough electricity to light ten 100-watt bulbs for about an hour.

Question 5:
 
Which huge earth-moving machine is important in the surface mining process as it excavates the overburden, or soil covering the coal deposit?
The correct answer is c - dragline.

Draglines are the world's largest land-based machines with buckets up to 250 tons and play a key role in a surface mine's operation

Question 6:Reclamation, the restoration of land and environmental values to a mining site, generally occurs:
The correct answer is d - after excavation and extraction, even as production operations are taking place elsewhere at the mine site.

As coal is removed from one section of a surface mine, the land at another part is returned, regraded and replanted so it will be as good or better than it was before mining began.  This process is called reclamation and because of it, modern surface mining is a temporary land use, involving not just excavation and extraction of coal, but also restoration and return of the land to productive use.

Question 7:What percentage of total U.S. deep coal mine production is accounted for by longwall mining?
Longwall mining is a highly productive underground mining process in which a panel or block of coal, sometimes 700 feet wide and a mile or more long, is completely extracted.  The working are is protected by a moveable, powered roof support system.  Longwall accounts for about 48% of total U.S. underground coal production.
Question 8:Which two transportation means move nearly two-thirds of all U.S. coal shipments?
The correct answer is a - railroads and barges.

Most coal sent from mine to market travels either by railroad or by barge.  Railroads handle the most coal, which is the largest single commodity carried by the rail industry.  Barges operating along inland waterways and intercoastal and lake routes handle about 20 percent of domestic coal movements.  Railroads and barges combined move nearly two-thirds of all U.S. coal shipments.

Question 9:Which state has the largest demonstrated coal reserves?
The correct answer is b - Montana.

Montana has the largest demonstrated coal reserves – nearly 120 billion tons of coal, or about one-quarter of the United States’ total reserves of 494 billion tons of coal.

Question 10:The second largest market for coal is:
The correct answer is d - the industrial and retail sector.

The industrial and retail sector accounts for about nine percent of annual U.S. coal consumption.  Coal is an important fuel for heating and powering foundries, cement plants and other industrial and manufacturing facilities. Many electric power plants also use coal to produce steam for generating electricity and for heating.

 

Provided by American Coal Foundation