Do you have trouble telling anthracite from standard coal? You’re not alone. These two types of carbon are often used interchangeably, and people may think they are one in the same. In reality, there is some crucial anthracite vs coal differences that set them apart from each other. Let’s take a look at what those differences are and how they impact your everyday life! 

Definition of Anthracite and Normal Coal 

Anthracite: Anthracite coal is a hard and shiny coal with high carbon and less impurities. This process takes many years, so it is considered a nonrenewable fuel. Anthracite is mainly used for heating buildings and in making steel. Still, it is also used in filtering water and landscape mulch.

Normal Coal: Bituminous Coal is also made of carbon. This coal is a “younger,” less refined coal. Coal is mainly used to generate electricity and in industry. This soft coal is often refined and turned into coke. Coke will burn much cleaner and hotter, which steel manufacturers like.


  • Chemical Composition: Anthracite has more carbon than soft coal, 86 to 98%, compared to 45 to 86%. This higher carbon content results in a more efficient and cleaner burning fuel.
  • Energy Output: Anthracite coal has more energy than regular coal because it contains more carbon. It generates more heat per unit of weight, making it a more efficient fuel source.
  • Cost: Anthracite coal is pricier than regular coal as it has more energy but isn’t as common. However, its higher efficiency and cleanliness can mostly offset this higher cost.
  • Availability: Anthracite coal is not very common. It makes up only about 1% of the world’s coal reserves. Most anthracite is found in the United States, primarily in Pennsylvania. However, we still have enough anthracite to last 300-500 years!
  • Carbon Footprint: Anthracite has a smaller carbon footprint compared to coal. This is because anthracite has more carbon and is more efficient in terms of environmental impact. This results in fewer greenhouse gas emissions per unit of energy produced.
  • Air Pollution: When anthracite is burned, it creates much less pollution than regular coal. This includes pollutants like sulfur dioxide and particulate matter. This can help reduce air pollution and associated health risks.
  • Fire Risk: Anthracite coal is less risky for chimney fires than regular coal because it has less volatile material. 

Benefits and Drawbacks of Anthracite and Coal 

Anthracite Benefits:

  • Anthracite coal has a lot of carbon (86-98%), producing more heat per weight unit than regular coal. It is more efficient now, which makes it better for heating and industry. 
  • Anthracite is a cleaner fuel because of its high carbon content and low impurity. It produces fewer pollutants like sulfur dioxide and particulate matter when burned. This results in cleaner air and reduced health risks associated with air pollution.
  • Anthracite has a lower environmental impact. It burns more efficiently and cleanly, resulting in less greenhouse gas emissions per unit of energy produced. Reducing the carbon footprint helps create sustainable energy.


  • Anthracite coal is usually more expensive than regular coal. This is because it contains more energy but is less readily available. The cost can be problematic for some users, especially where anthracite is hard to find. 
  • Anthracite is not available everywhere. Because in North America, it is only found in Pennsylvania, Shipping costs restrict the use of hard coal to only the eastern states.

Soft Coal Benefits 

Regular coal is cheaper than anthracite since it’s more common and has less energy. It’s a more affordable choice for many users in areas with a lot of coal. 

  • Coal is easier to find than anthracite since its reserves are located in many parts of the world. 


  • Regular coal has less energy than anthracite coal due to its lower carbon content (45-86%). Less efficiency leads to burning more coal to generate the same amount of energy. 
  • Regular coal creates more pollutants than anthracite, such as sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and particulate matter.