Coal – When Myth Meets Fact

Unlike the prevailing myth, steam coal does not consist of the black crystals used for barbecues. The coal used for electricity production, and imported by the National Coal Supply Corporation, originates in large mines worldwide. Coal contains a large amount of energy which decomposes and releases a vast amount of heat, setting the electricity production process in motion.

Coal and Fire

Another popular myth regarding steam coal suggests that coal is ignited by fire. Anyone visiting coal mines or watching the coal stacks arriving at the Israeli Electric Corporation may notice a thin pillar of smoke occasionally rising up from the stack. This is not a dangerous phenomenon or a potential conflagration, but just a local oxidation of coal. The correct treatment – compression of the pile by a tractor – easily extinguishes the fire.


The word Coal appears three times in the bible, and only twice in relation to a fire.

Carbon and Oxygen

Coal burning is basically a chemical process, based on the oxidation of the matter. The presence of oxygen causes coal to heat up and potentially to ignite and generate a fire. Compressing the coal stacks and preventing ventilation is the simplest and most efficient way to prevent the oxidation of the coal and the eruption of a fire.

When a local fire breaks out in a coal stack, water is not used to extinguish it, as it could increase oxidation, due to the water’s composition (H2O), which includes oxygen atoms.

Black as Coal

Coal is not necessarily black. In many cases, coal crystals are actually brown. Carbon, the raw material from which coal is produced, sometimes has the greenish tint typical of diamonds.