Sub-bituminous coal

Figure 1. Lump of black lignite or sub-bituminous coal.[1]

Sub-bituminous coal or black lignite is a grey-black or dark brown fossil fuel and is a mid rank of coal. It ranges from hard to soft as it represents an intermediate stage between low quality lignite and higher quality bituminous coal. The carbon content of sub-bituminous coal varies drastically, but is around 50%.[2] Sub-bituminous coals are among the younger coals geologically and are approximately 251 000 000 years old. This type of coal is among the most common, with 30% of coal resources being sub-bituminous.[3]


Sub-bituminous coal is used in generating steam for the production of electricity, and is thus frequently used in power plants.[3] As well, sub-bituminous coal can be liquefied and converted into petroleum and gas.[4]

The use of this coal can lead to hazardous emissions, particularly of harmful smoke, soot, sulfur oxides (SOx), nitrogen oxides (NOx), and mercury. However, burning the coal at higher temperatures reduces the amount of carbon monoxide that is released.[3]


  1. James St. John. (May 13, 2015). Lignite Coal. Available:
  2. J. Kraushaar, R. Ristinen. (May 13, 2015). Energy and the Environment, 2nd ed. Hoboken, NJ, U.S.A.: John Wiley & Sons, 2006
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Wendy Lyons Sunshine. (May 13, 2015). Sub-Bituminous Coal [Online]. Available:
  4. Canadian Federation of Earth Sciences. (May 13, 2015). Four Billion Years and Counting: Canada's Geological Heritage, 1st ed. Toronto, ON, Canada.: Nimbus Publishing, 2014