Abstract A study was carried out to ascertain the effects of coal preoxidation and carbonization conditions on the structure and relative gasification potential of a series of bituminous coal chars. Chars were prepared from two freshly mined bituminous coals and preoxidized samples derived from them. Carbonization conditions included a wide range of heating rate (0.2–10000K s −1), temperature (1073–1273 K) and time (0.25–3600 s). Char properties were characterized in terms of analysis of char morphology, surface area, elemental composition, and gasification reactivity in air. Over the range of conditions used, preoxidation substantially reduced coal fluid behaviour and influenced macroscopic char properties (char morphology). Following slow heating (0.2 K s −1), preoxidized coals yielded chars having higher total surface areas and higher reactivities toward gasification in air than did similar chars prepared from fresh coal. Following rapid heating (10000 K s −1) and short residence times (0.25 s), chars prepared from preoxidized and fresh coals exhibited similar microstructural and chemical properties (surface area, C H ratios, gasification rates). Carbonization time and temperature were found to be the critical parameters influencing char structure and gasification potential.