This paper demonstrates the application of exergy to gain a better understanding of coal properties, especially chemical exergy and specific chemical exergy. In this study, a BASIC computer program was used to calculation of the chemical exergies of the coal-based fuels. Calculations showed that the chemical composition of the coal influences strongly the values of the chemical exergy. The exergy value of a coal is closely related to the H:C and O:C ratios. High proportions of hydrogen and/or oxygen, compared to carbon, generally reduce the exergy value of the coal. High contents of the moisture and/or the ash cause to low values of the chemical exergy. The aim of this paper is to calculate the chemical exergy of coals by using equations given in the literature and to detect and to evaluate quantitatively the effect of irreversible phenomena increased the thermodynamic imperfection of the processes. In this paper, the calculated exergy values of the fuels will be useful for energy experts studied in the coal mining area and coal-fired powerplants. (c) 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.