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Lecture 22: Coal Processing Overview

Types of Coal Coals are classified into different "ranks" based on the degree to which the original plant material has been transformed into carbon. Rank is a rough indication of the age of the coal. Generally, the older the coal, the higher its carbon content. Coal ranks (from most to least carbon content) are as follows:

- Anthracite

- Bituminous

- Sub-bituminous

- Lignite

Coal with the highest carbon content is the best and cleanest type.

Lignite coal Lignite (sometimes called "brown coal" is used almost exclusively for electric power generation. Lignite is a young coal. Lignite is brownish black, has a high moisture content (up to 45 %), and a high sulphur content. Lignite is more like soil and tends to disintegrate when exposed to the weather. Lignite is also called brown coal. It has a colorific value of less than 5 kW/kg.

Sub-bituminous coal Sub-bituminous coal is referred to as black lignite. Sub-bituminous coal contains 20-30 % moisture and is used for generating electricity and space heating. It has a calorific values ranging from 5 - 6.8 kW/kg.

Bituminous coal Bituminous coal is a soft, dense, black coal. Bituminous coal often has bands of bright and dull material. Bituminous coal is the most common coal with a moisture content below 20 %. It is used for generating electricity, making coke, and for space heating. Their calorific value ranges from 6.8 - 9 kW/kg.

Anthracite coal Often referred to as hard coal, anthracite is black and lustrous. It is low in sulfur and high in carbon. It is the highest rank of coal with a moisture content below 15 %. Its calorific values is 9 kW/kg or above.

content below 15 %. Its calorific values is 9 kW/kg or above. Fig. 1. Types of

Fig. 1. Types of Coal and Requirements for formation

Fig. 2. Ranks of Coal and Properties. Fig. 2. Properties of different types of coal.

Fig. 2. Ranks of Coal and Properties.

Fig. 2. Ranks of Coal and Properties. Fig. 2. Properties of different types of coal. Coal

Fig. 2. Properties of different types of coal.

Coal is produced and marketed for two essential purposes:

Thermal coal for burning and producing heat and electricity Metallurgical coal to produce coke and smelt metals (Fe, Pb, Zn, Cu).

Processing Coal is called Coal Preparation and the plants are referred to as Coal Washing Plants.

The objectives of Coal Preparation include:

(1) Grading into sizes for sale. (2) Removal of undesirable constituents – Ash and Pyrite.

Coal may be mined from underground or surface operations. Surface operations include strip mining, open pit, and mountain-top. When produced by mechanized mining, coal arrives on surface in an assortment of sizes from dust to coarse lumps, with inclusions of chalk, clay, slate, ankerite ((Ca,Mg,Fe,Mn)CO 3 ), and pyrite.

Mined coal contains two kinds of ash-forming materials - "fixed" and "free". Fixed ash derives from inorganic matter in the tissues of the original coal-forming plants together with fine silt entrained during deposition of the seam. Free ash is extraneous to the true coal seam and comes from the adjacent rock.

The coal can include clay, shale, locked-gangue and other mined rock. Fixed ash is not removable by standard cleaning methods, but free ash can be reduced by suitable treatment.

Sulphur also occurs in two forms: as carbonaceous sulphur intimately associated with the coal and as Pyrite. Pyritic sulphur can be removed by flotation - chemical leaching methods have also been studied, but are too expensive.

Eastern North American coals are predominantly mined from underground sources and generally have high sulphur content (>2%) while Western coals in both the US and Canada derive from open pit operations and have low sulphur content (<0.5%). With increased mechanization in open pit mines, coal

is tending to be finer, thus requiring increased attention to recovering fine coal. Much Western

Canadian coal is shipped overseas (Japan, Korea, China, etc.) as transportation costs to eastern markets

are too high. There are four main operations in coal preparation:

(1) Screening or sizing. (2) Mixing and blending. (3) Cleaning (removal of incombustibles). (4) De-dusting or de-watering.

CLEANING TREATMENT: The purpose of cleaning is to remove "free" ash. Coal varies widely through a seam, and between associated seams. The Wash Plant must be adaptable to widely varying feeds. The roof and floor of a seam and the inter-laminated shale are often carbonaceous and easily mistaken for true coal. These zones get mixed in with the coal during mining. Pure coal varies in density. Gradation from light coal to heavy shale is exploited by applying gravity separation down to about 10 mesh. Below this size, flotation is used. Sulphur was once controlled by hand-picking, but today wet methods are used.

Finely disseminated impurities (fixed ash) cannot be removed by simple washing. Flotation is required to upgrade wash plant fines and slurries. Free ash removed by normal treatment must be sufficiently liberated to be separable at a size acceptable to the customer. Coarse rock is removed by gravity treatment based on density differences. Today, dense-media separation in jigs and cyclones is an important method used to remove coarse ash.

FLOTATION: Compared with hard-rock treatment, coal flotation is straight-forward and can be applied to

a coarse mesh-of-grind, giving good results at 48 mesh and even up to 800 microns. Current practice has extended froth flotation to coarser sizes - up to 2 mm.

Flotation reagents include "conditioners" (frothers) rather than collectors as coal is initially, naturally flotable. These include cresyls, pine oil, kerosene, creosote, fuel oil, and aliphatic alcohols. The bulk of the feed floats, so froth withdrawal must be able to handle large volumes. The value of the concentrate

is far lower than with a metallic ore, so a high recovery is less important than good product grade. Being

of low SG, coal can be treated in a dilute pulp reducing interference with clay slimes which remain dispersed. Apart from its importance in cleaning contaminated dense-media and in upgrading high-ash coals in wash plant slurries, flotation is increasingly being used for direct treatment of low-rank coal.