This paper discusses the applicability of small angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) and small angle neutron scattering (SANS) techniques for determining the porosity, pore size distribution and internal specific surface area in coals. The method is noninvasive, fast, inexpensive and does not require complex sample preparation. It uses coal grains of about 0.8 mm size mounted in standard pellets as used for petrographic studies. Assuming spherical pore geometry, the scattering data are converted into the pore size distribution in the size range 1 nm (10 A??) to 20 ??m (200,000 A??) in diameter, accounting for both open and closed pores. FTIR as well as SAXS and SANS data for seven samples of oriented whole coals and corresponding pellets with vitrinite reflectance (Ro) values in the range 0.55% to 5.15% are presented and analyzed. Our results demonstrate that pellets adequately represent the average microstructure of coal samples. The scattering data have been used to calculate the maximum surface area available for methane adsorption. Total porosity as percentage of sample volume is calculated and compared with worldwide trends. By demonstrating the applicability of SAXS and SANS techniques to determine the porosity, pore size distribution and surface area in coals, we provide a new and efficient tool, which can be used for any type of coal sample, from a thin slice to a representative sample of a thick seam. ?? 2004 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.