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What is Coking Coal And Where Do I Use It?

  • Coking coal (or metallurgical coal) is a bituminous coal with a suitable quality that allows the production of metallurgical coke, or simply named coke. Coking coal has a higher carbon content than steam coal, as well as a lower level of sulphur, phosphorous and alkalis (World Coal Institute 2009). It forms one of the key inputs required for the production of steel (mainly used in iron and steel making industries).

  • Coke is the main product of the high-temperature carbonisation of coking coal. Coke is an essential input material in steelmaking as it is used to produce pig iron in blast furnaces acting as the reducing agent of iron ore and as the support of the furnace charge. 


  • By-products of coke production such as tar, benzole, ammonia sulphate and sulphur are used for the manufacture of chemicals, as well a coke oven gas used for heat and power generation.


  • 70% of the steel produced today uses coal. In 2010, world crude steel production was 1.4 billion tonnes, requiring 721 million tonnes of coking coal. The most commonly applied process for steel-making is the integrated steel-making process via the Blast Furnace – Basic Oxygen Furnace. Around 0.6 tonnes (600 kg) of coke produces 1 tonne (1000 kg) of steel, which means that around 770 kg of coal are used to produce 1 tonne of steel through this production route.

  • Steel is one of the most efficient modern construction materials. It offers the highest strength-to-weight ratio of any commonly-used material and is exceptionally durable. It is an essential material used in the construction sector, used to build high-rise buildings, bridges and tunnels as well as in the transport sector, to build railroads, trains, aeroplanes, ships and car bodies.


Where is Coking Coal Produced?

  • The global coking coal producers are China 52%, Australia 18%, Russia 9%, US 6%, India 5%, Canada 3% and Mongolia 2%.


  • The EU suppliers of coking coal are Australia 28%, Poland 26%, US 20%, Russia 8%, Canada 6% and Czech Republic 5%.


  • The annual average production of coking coal in EU during the period 2016-2020 was about 15 Mt. Poland is the major producer with an average annual production 13 Mt. Much smaller amounts are extracted in Czech Republic, the extraction in Germany was finished after 2018. About 39 Mt of coking coal were annually imported during 2016-2020, only in 2021 imports reached 28,7 Mt, which represented two-thirds of the total EU sourcing (Global Market; European Commission).

  • Coking coal trade reflects the demand for iron ore, pig iron and crude steel (EC, 2020). There has been a substantial increase in coking coal consumption during the last 40 years, driven primarily by growing steel production in China as infrastructure has been expanded (IEA 2021).

How much does it cost

  • Coal spot prices can fluctuate based on short-term market conditions, but contract prices tend to be more stable (IEA, 2021).


Specific Issues for Coking Coal

  • Australia and China are the overwhelming suppliers of coking coal. As noted in the ‘Critical Raw Materials for the EU’ report this concentration of supply creates risk, for instance in 2011 Australian coking coal supply was disrupted by flooding.

  • Similarly coking coal has a high economic importance due to its use in the steel sector with few options for substitution available.


  • Alternative clean steel production technologies are currently being developed. However, at this point, volumes of produced green steel are insignificant as compared to EU demand.  Moreover, by-products of coking coal production such as coal tar are considered a valuable and irreplaceable material used in multiple strategic value chains e.g. electrodes, batteries.



  • Coking coal has been considered a Critical Raw Material continuously since 2014.

  • Securing reliable, sustainable and undistorted access to coking coal is essential to sustaining the EU’s economy, growth and jobs.       

  • Coking coal faces political, technical and financial challenges as the world attempts to transition to a low carbon economy. To reconcile the role of coking coal EU and member states must increase investment and develop policy consistent with encouraging support for carbon capture and storage technology.



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