You may remember this post (https://plus.google.com/109885711759115445224/posts/Jv5jWGjyjz6) of mine where I talked about costs of heating your home here in Ireland using different sources. Well, yesterday I was in the Dairygold where I spotted some funny looking briquettes marked as "Union Coal Briquettes", €10.73 for 25kg. I figured why not give them a try given they looked similar to the same price per kg as Bord na Mona peat briquettes, so I bought a bale.
It turns out that Union Coal Briquettes are actually compressed lignite (the stuff half way in between peat and coal, sometimes called "brown coal") from Germany where of course they have a ton of lignite and not much high grade coal. The ones in the co op are marked "Heizprofi" and are in fact made by one of Germany's oldest lignite miners, Rheinbraun. Rheinbraun says that their Heizprofi briquettes which are "upgraded compressed lignite" (upgraded means they have stripped most of the sulphur and ash to comply with smokeless fuel legislation) briquettes generate 5.53 kWh/kg, therefore I paid 7.76 euro cent per kWh.
Inserting that into my earlier table of costs of heating:
Premium Polish Coal: 4.82
Natural gas (from pipe, not bottle): 5.1 (not including standing charge)
Peat Briquettes: 5.93
Lignite Briquettes: 7.76
Heating oil: 8.48
Electricity: 18 (not including standing charge)
Now I have to say I am surprised about where Lignite Briquettes falls: ok, it's about 40% more expensive per kg than Peat Briquettes, but when you burn them the heat is noticeably higher though they do take longer to catch fire. They aren't anything like as hot as the Polish Premium coal where you can't stand within a metre of the fire due to the heat, and they reduce readily to a small amount of fine ash, plus their smoke is mostly smell free unlike the peatiness of the peat (which is pleasant) or the sulphur of the coal (which is unpleasant). That suggests they contain a good bit more energy than peat, but less than coal - which is exactly where lignite ought to be.
Are they as much as 40% more heat than peat though? Probably not. They're as much better than BnM peat briquettes as the BnM peat briquettes are over the cheap Latvian peat briquettes which at €0.24/kg are a good bit cheaper than the BnM briquettes currently going for €0.30/kg. That suggests that those German lignite briquettes aren't really worth the money.
And of course still absolutely nothing comes close to how cheap coal is relative to anything else, so still nothing has changed since the 19th and 18th centuries in that regard.