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Technology Through Time

Coal Investigations

Cadomin Coal MineThe Province of Alberta contains seventeen percent of the coal reserves of the world, and about eighty percent of the coal reserves in Canada. Nearly the whole of the south half of the province is underlain by one or more coal-bearing formations. D. B. Dowling in "The Coal Resources of the World" has estimated that Alberta contains an actual reserve of over 386,360 million tonnes, and a probable reserve of about 673,550 million tonnes of coal. This makes a total reserve of 1,059,910 million tonnes of coal within the Province; this is an excellent argument in favour of increased coal production to supply the entire demands of the eastern Prairie Provinces.

The chief value of Alberta coal at the present time lies in its use as a fuel. Fuel is a substance which when ignited, combines with oxygen or burns, and during this process evolves a quality of heat. This heat may be used for domestic, industrial or power purposes.

Investigations have shown that coal can be utilized more profitably in many other forms than as a fuel. It is of the greatest importance that research be carried out on the various grades of coal in this province, to determine what by-products may be obtained from them, which might make the coal more valuable than by utilizing it in its natural state as a fuel.

The calorific value of coal as a fuel depends largely on the amount of heat which can be obtained from a given quantity of coal, it is measured as the number of heat units available in one pound of coal. In this country the heating value of coal is usually expressed in terms of the British Thermal Unit (BTU), which is the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit. Sometimes the heat value is expressed in terms of calories where one calorie equals 3968 BTU.

Alberta Research Council. [1920] Annual Report. With permission from the Alberta Research Council.



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