The annual world production of coal could start to decline from as early as next year, with new research from the University of Newcastle predicting the availability of the resource may well peak as soon as 2010.
Professor Geoffrey Evans and PhD student Steve Mohr from the University of Newcastle have developed a new mathematical model to predict the future of coal production.
Their research reveals that the world's coal production could peak between 2010 and 2048, and Australia's coal production sometime after 2050.
The researchers applied their new model to all coal producing countries and, unlike previous models, took into account supply and demand influences.
The model comprises more than 400 variables including new mines coming online, upgrades and shutdowns to existing mines and external disruptions to coal supply such as war and economic depressions. Importantly, the model takes into account how quickly industry can adapt to these changes.
Professor Evans said while the complicated model was limited because it relied on a number of assumptions and data about coal production in different countries, it sent a very clear message.
"We need to start thinking now about the future supply of coal and how best to manage the resource. This is another warning that we cannot wait for coal to peak, we need to act now to plan for the future."
Professor Evans and Mr Mohr will highlight their research at a forum hosted by the University's Tom Farrell Institute for the Environment this Friday.
"Oil and platinum are two other non-renewable energy resources expected to peak in the next 40 years.
"This places greater emphasis on the need to better understand the world's coal reserves and push forward the development of new generation technologies for energy production."
The mathematical model to predict the future of coal production has been published this year in the journal FUEL.
The forum will be held on Friday 30 October from 2.30pm - 5pm in the CT building at the Newcastle campus (at Callaghan).