|The electric utility industry remains the largest user of coal.
Utility boilers in Illinois and a number of other states burn close to 90 percent of the coal mined annually in Illinois. The rest goes to a variety of other types of customers.
In a typical fossil fuel power plant, coal, oil or gas is burned in a furnace to provide heat for changing water to steam. The steam turns the blades of a turbine, which spins a generator to produce electricity. It takes a little less than one pound of Illinois coal to produce one kilowatt-hour of electricity.
There are about 1200 coal-fired power plants in the United States which together produce about 51 percent of the nation's electricity. That is more than gas, oil, nuclear, hydro, and wind power combined.
Coal generates a significant percent of the electricity used in Illinois. Much of the rest comes from nuclear facilities.
After utilities, the users of Illinois coal include various industrial plants as well as a small commercial market. These nonutility markets for Illinois coal have declined in recent decades, considering that 30 years ago they consumed close to 40 percent of Illinois coal sales.
Years ago, a large amount of the coal mined in Illinois was used within the state. Now about 80% of coal mined in Illinois is shipped to other states. In part, this trend can be attributed to air quality regulations which greatly restrict the burning of high-sulfur coal in many areas.