Coal

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Coal is a combustible black or brownish-black sedimentary rock normally occurring in rock strata in layers or veins called coal beds or coal seams. The harder forms, such as anthracite coal, can be regarded as metamorphic rock because of later exposure to elevated temperature and pressure. Coal is composed primarily of carbon along with variable quantities of other elements, chiefly sulfur, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen[citation needed].

Coal begins as layers of plant matter accumulate at the bottom of a body of water. For the process to continue the plant matter must be protected from biodegradation and oxidization, usually by mud or acidic water. The wide shallow seas of the Carboniferous period provided such conditions. This trapped atmospheric carbon in the ground in immense peat bogs that eventually were covered over and deeply buried by sediments under which they metamorphosed into coal. Over time, the chemical and physical properties of the plant remains (believed to mainly have been fern-like species antedating more modern plant and tree species) were changed by geological action to create a solid material.

Coal, a fossil fuel, is the largest source of energy for the generation of electricity worldwide, as well as one of the largest worldwide anthropogenic sources of carbon dioxide emissions. Gross carbon dioxide emissions from coal usage are slightly more than those from petroleum and about double the amount from natural gas.[1] Coal is extracted from the ground by mining, either underground by shaft mining through the seams or in open pits.

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