Difference Between Coal and Charcoal


Main Difference

The main difference between Coal and Charcoal is that Coal is blackish-brown combustible carbon, whereas Charcoal is black grey produced from the burning of carbon compounds.

Coal vs. Charcoal

Coal contains carbon, hydrogen, sulfur, phosphorus, and oxygen. The main element in charcoal is carbon. Coal is blackish-brown while charcoal is black grey. Coal forms naturally by biochemical processes. Charcoal produces by human-made processes. Dead plants and animals decompose and convert into coal. Wood burns in ash, which is called charcoal. Coals form by carbonization process; conversely, charcoal forms by pyrolysis. Industries use coal for heating purposes. Household heating work occurs by flaming charcoal.


Coal produces more energy as compared to charcoal. Coal is expensive, whereas charcoal has less cost. Coal is a mineral; on the other hand, charcoal, not a mineral. Coal is a sedimentary rock, while charcoal is a carbon-containing compound. Coal extracts by mining, while charcoal obtains by burning wood. Coal produces heat, which has short durability. Charcoal heat has long durability. Coal takes million years for its preparation, while we can produce charcoal immediately.

Coal is non- renewable source of energy, while charcoal is a renewable source of energy. Coal provides different minerals and compounds on destructive distillation, whereas charcoal does not provide. Coal-burning causes air pollution, while charcoal production causes deforestation.


Comparison Chart

Coal is ignitable carbon. It is a type of fossils that gets preserved in sedimentary rocks.Charcoal is the incomplete burning of wood., produces by human actions.
Take million yearsForms quickly
Occurs NaturallyArtificially produced
For industriesAs a house fuel
Dead animals and plantsCarbon-containing material
Produces moreProduces less
MiningBurning carbon material
Sedimentary rocksResidues of carbon burning
Natural biochemical processesPyrolysis

What is Coal?

Coal is a type of fossils that gets preserved in sedimentary rocks. History indicates that the first use of coal was in China in 4000 BCE. Coal is burnable consists of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. It also supplies a small amount of nitrogen, sulfur, and phosphorous. It is thought that with the evolution of the earth, animals and plants get buried under the earth. The temperature and pressure were higher inside the earth. Due to it, the dead animals and plants decompose and get converted into coal. This biochemical process was very slow and took billion years to complete.

Wood converted into coal, and this process is called carbonization. The coal buried in deep earth and mined to get it. The coal is a sedimentary rock, minerals, and some particles embed in this rock. Coal is a mineral. The combustion of coal harms the atmosphere. It causes air pollution, which further leads to many respiratory diseases of humans. When we heat coal under high temperature and pressure in off supply of oxygen, certain inorganic products form in the result, and this process is called destructive distillation. These products include coal gas, ammonia liquor, coke, and many more.

Grading of Coal

  • Peat: It contains 60 % carbon. It is low-grade coal.
  • Lignite: It contains 70% carbon. It is soft coal.
  • Bituminous: It contains 80% carbon. Its common uses are in the house as a fuel
  • Anthracite: it has 90% carbon. It is high-grade hard coal used in industries.

What is Charcoal?

Charcoal produces by human actions or sometimes called human mistakes — any material which consists of hydrocarbons when heated in the absence of oxygen then charcoal forms. Wood contains 40% carbon. It is black. When all water and unstable particles evaporate from hydrocarbons under high temperatures, charcoal generates. It is a slow process called pyrolysis or charcoal burning. The ash after burning consists solely of carbon.

Charcoal is highly absorbent, and it is not a mineral. Charcoal produces less heat, therefore used as a household fuel. It guarantees heat for a long time. Charcoal is a renewable source of energy. It means if it finishes in the future, we can produce it again. It is the incomplete burning of wood. The trees are cut for burning; forests are ending; this is called deforestation.

Deforestation further leads to soil erosion, destruction of habitats, leaching down the minerals, floods, shortage of rain, excess of carbon dioxide in atmospheres, greenhouse effect, and global warming. Blacksmiths use charcoal for heating purposes. It finds its uses in cleaning purposes and used as a source of carbon in different reactions.

Grading of Charcoal

  • Common Charcoal: It extracts from petroleum, peat, or coal.
  • Sugar Charcoal: We obtain it from the strong heating of sugar.
  • Lump Charcoal: It applies for medical and purification purposes.
  • Activated Charcoal: It consists of hardwood. It is a commonly used charcoal.

Key Differences

  1. Coal is blackish-brown flammable carbon, whereas charcoal forms by burning carbon compounds.
  2. Coal takes millions to billions of years to form, while charcoal forms in less time.
  3. Coal is present in earth innately; conversely, charcoal produces by the human-made process.
  4. Coal uses are mainly for industries. On the other hand, charcoal is household fuel.
  5. Coal sources are deceased plants and animals; on the flip side, the source of coal is carbonaceous compounds.
  6. Coal gives a lot of energy, while charcoal gives less in the same amount.
  7. Coal is extracted by mining, whereas there is no need for mining for extraction of charcoal.
  8. Coal is a sedimentary rock, while charcoal is the scum of wood burning.
  9. Coal creates by biochemical processes; on the flip side, charcoal forms by burning carbon compounds.


Coal and charcoal both are hydrocarbons, but coal is a fossil fuel formed by the innate phenomenon, whereas charcoal is a black grey residue left after the burning of plant wood.

Harlon Moss

Harlon currently works as a quality moderator and content writer for Difference Wiki. He graduated from the University of California in 2010 with a degree in Computer Science. Follow him on Twitter @HarlonMoss