Survey of Energy Resources 2007
Coal - Reserves
Amongst the major energy sources, coal is once again the most rapidly growing fuel on a global basis. While questions regarding the size and location of reserves of oil and gas abound, coal remains abundant – and broadly distributed around the world. Economically recoverable reserves of coal are available in more than 70 countries worldwide, and in each major world region. With authorities reporting some 850 billion tonnes of coal as currently recoverable (the geological resource is far larger), it is clear that coal will be with us for many decades, if not centuries, to come.
The fact that global coal reserves at end-2005 were, at 847.5 billion tonnes, some 61.5 billion tonnes or 6.8% lower than the corresponding total at end-2002 represents more of a refinement than a revision. After centuries of mineral exploration, the location, size and characteristics of most countries’ coal resources are quite well known. What tends to vary much more than the assessed level of the resource (in other words, the potentially accessible coal in the ground) is the level classified as proved recoverable reserves (that is, the tonnage of coal that has been proved by drilling etc. and is economically and technically extractable).
The data on coal reserves and resources given in the present Survey (Tables 1-1, 1-2i, 1.2ii, 1.2iii) have been compiled from a variety of sources. The prime input has been provided by the Member Committees in WEC member countries. However, on the one hand WEC membership does not include all countries with coal resources, and on the other, not all WEC members are able to respond to the questionnaire requesting data as input to the Survey. Consequently, other (mainly published) sources are consulted in order to complete the coverage of global resources. It should thus be noted that the resulting tabulations of reserves and resources are a compilation of existing data, not a set of specially-commissioned national assessments.
At the current rate of production, global coal reserves are estimated to last for almost another 150 years.
Compared with data appearing in the 2004 Survey of Energy Resources, North American reserves have decreased by 4 billion tonnes, all attributable to the gradual attrition of US reserves. South America shows a 3.5 billion tonnes reduction, mostly as a result of a 0.7 recovery factor being applied to Brazil, replacing the in-situ data previously reported. In Asia a significant change (down 41 billion tonnes) was largely due to improved data for India, where the WEC Member Committee was able to report reserves on a recoverable basis, rather than the in-situ data emanating from the Ministry of Coal. European reserves declined by 12 billion tonnes, over half of which was attributable to Poland, where reported reserves now refer to developed deposits only. (Fig. 1-1)