Coal is formed from the mass acculmulation of dead organic matter. Trees are a large contributor to this. It takes approximately 1 million years to make coal, and as long as 300 million years. The carbon from the plants is what gives the coal energy. The decaying matter is typically in water, pressed down with great weight to remove the water. Deeper burial and higher heat changed the decaying matter to coal.
Organic matter, from dead trees to dead plantlife, falls into shallow sedimentary basins that is then covered in mud or sand, thereby cutting it off from oxygen and delaying the rotting process. As this matter is covered and sinks down, the cellulose in wood converts to humic acid, then to bitumens, then to elementary carbon. The older the coal, the higher the carbon content. Most of the coal we use today is 300 million years old.
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