Coal is a combustible black or brownish-black sedimentary rock normally found in layers or veins called coal beds or coal seams. Coal is composed primarily of carbon with variable quantities of other elements: sulfur, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen.

Coal has multiple uses. It is used to generate electricity, in metallurgical applications (manufacture of steel), residential and commercial space heating, in pencils (graphite) and as a lubricant. Types of coal ranked from low to high (based on their level of organic metamorphism) include: peat, lignite, bituminous coal, sub-bituminous coal, anthracite, and graphite.

Coal is a exchange-traded commodity. Central Appalachian coal (US) is traded at the NYMEX and at the ICE Europe . Richards Bay coal (Africa), CSX Coal (US), Powder River Basin coal (US), Rotterdam coal (Europe), Newcastle coal (Asia) and FOB Indonesia Sub-bituminous coal (Asia) are traded at the ICE Europe.