Coal in Germany

Recoverable reserves19.2thousand Mtoe

Production133Mtoe per year

The German WEC Member Committee has reported coal reserves on the basis of data provided by the German Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR). Proved recoverable reserves are given as 40 548 million tonnes, almost all of which is lignite. The level of hard coal reserves in this category is confined to the projected amount of the (highly subsidised) German hard coal production until 2018, when subsidised hard coal mining is due to be phased out. The hard coal component has a maximum deposit depth of 1 500 m below the surface, and a minimum seam thickness of 0.6 m, whilst the corresponding parameters for lignite are 500 and 3 m, respectively.

In previous reports only the proved recoverable amount of lignite reserves in existing and planned surface mines was reported. For better comparability with reserve data from other countries the present numbers report the entire German lignite reserves.

BGR’s category ‘resources’ (using its own definition, which differs from WEC usage) amounts to around 82.9 billion tonnes of hard coal and 36.5 billion tonnes of lignite. These levels convey an indication of the enormous size of the additional amounts of coal ‘in place’, over and above the in situ tonnages hosting the recoverable reserves.

Over three-quarters of German hard coal production is derived from the Ruhr Basin (Ruhr and Ibbenbüren mining districts). The coal qualities range from anthracite to high-volatile, strongly-caking bituminous coal. The second largest German coalfield is situated in the Saar Basin, with substantial deposits of weakly-caking bituminous coal. All German hard coal is deep-mined from seams at depths exceeding 900 m.

The lignite deposit in the Rhineland region is the largest single formation in Europe in terms of lignite production. In the former East Germany there are major deposits of lignite in the Central-German (at Halle/Leipzig) and Lusatian mining districts, which have considerable domestic importance. Germany is still the world’s largest lignite producer.

The principal markets for bituminous coal are electricity generation, iron and steel, and cement manufacture: other industrial and household uses are relatively modest. The bulk of German lignite is consumed in power stations, although a considerable tonnage (over 11 million t/y) is converted into lignite products such as briquettes, dust, coal for fluidised circulating beds and coke for the industrial, residential and commercial markets.

Germany has considerable reserves of hard coal (48 million tonnes) and lignite (40,500 million tonnes), making these the country’s most important indigenous source of energy.

Germany’s primary energy consumption amounted to 480 Mtce in 2010. Oil accounted for the largest share (33.6%), followed by coal (22.8 %), natural gas (21.8 %) and nuclear energy (10.9 %). Renewable energy reached 9.5 %.Within coal, hard coal accounted for 12.1 % and lignite for 10.7 % of primary energy consumption. Germany is dependent on energy imports to a large extent, except in the case of lignite. About 77% of hard coal was imported, in comparison with 98% of oil and 87% of gas.  The power generation structure is characterised by a widely diversified energy mix. In 2010, gross power output was as follows: 42.4% from coal (of which 23.7% was from lignite and 18.7 % from hard coal), 22.6 % from nuclear, 13.6 % from natural gas, 16.5 % from renewable energy sources and 4.9% from other sources. This means that hard coal and lignite, as well as nuclear energy, are the mainstays of the German power industry.