Part 4: Oil Agglomeration Process Principles and Commercial Application for Fine Coal Cleaning

Capes, C. E.
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 22
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1991
INTRODUCTION In the coal industry, ever greater amounts of fine coal must be processed due to the need to crush to finer sizes for impurity liberation in low cost physical cleaning processes. Fine coal processing is a major problem for the industry, both through the cost of disposal of reject fines and through the mining cost of lost coal values. Of the available disposal methods, impoundment has always been the most popular. In many cases, when the coal fines were of sufficient quality, froth flotation and expensive filtration methods were used to recover the coal in these waste streams. The coal fines are not always of a marketable quality, however, and flotation, due to poor yields and difficult dewatering, has always been an expensive and not necessarily profitable process. The oil agglomeration method is increasingly important as a technology for the treatment of fine coal-in-water suspensions. These fines can be preferentially wetted and agglomerated by many different oils mixed with the suspensions. Ash-forming impurities remain in suspension and are rejected when the agglomerates are recovered, for example, by screening. Agglomeration-based methods provide perhaps the only practical means for upgrading extremely fine coal to useful products on a large scale. As with froth flotation, oil agglomeration relies on differences in the surface properties of coal and impurities to effect separation. Whereas flotation be- comes less effective with particles finer than 200 mesh (0.075 mm) or coarser than 50 mesh (0.3 mm), there appears to be no lower limit on particle size for oil agglomeration while particles % in. (3.175 mm) diameter or larger can also be treated, if desirable. In addition to this ability to clean a broader size range of coal particles, oil agglomeration can produce a dense, coarse granular product of acceptable strength and low water content without the need for vacuum or thermal drying. The preferential wetting of solid surfaces by immiscible liquids has been utilized, if not fully understood, for a long time. Indeed Gaudin,229 in tracing the ancestry of froth flotation, refers to a 15th century oil-pulp kneading procedure in which water-wetted particles were freed under water from an oiled mass. An understanding of the physical chemistry involved in such
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