Dewatering Of Coal Fines Using A Super Absorbent Polymer

Peer, F.
Organization: The Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy
Pages: 8
Publication Date: Jan 1, 2003
In most coal preparation processes, water is a necessary medium, but the presence of water in coal after it has been cleaned has a negative impact on transportation costs, handling and specific energy values. The utilization of super absorbent polymers (SAP) in the nappy application is well known. The concept of utilizing these polymers was investigated for the purposes of dewatering coal and other fines, generated by preparation processes such as flotation. SAPs are granular highly cross-linked synthetic copolymers with excellent water-absorbing properties. The dewatering process is characterized by three main stages: (a) contact of super absorbent polymer with high-moisture fine coal; (b) separation of dewatered fine coal from super absorbent polymer; and (c) regeneration of used super absorbent polymer, by exploiting its response to changes in conditions such as pH or temperature. Preliminary tests showed the separation step to be very difficult. The novel idea of encasing a given amount of polymer in a water permeable cloth solved this problem (of separating the swollen polymer from the dewatered coal). Preliminary tests investigating the effectiveness of the sachets of polymer showed a drastic decrease in the moisture contents of slurries. Furthermore, it was shown that it was possible to regenerate the polymer (still within the sachets) through thermal drying. A full-scale experimental programme was then followed to accurately determine the feasibility of using sachets of SAP. The experimental variables were initial slurry moisture content and polymer dosage. It was observed that the sachets seemed to work fastest and most effectively at high moistures and also at higher dosages of SAP. Regeneration of the polymer was also investigated, using two methods: thermal regeneration and pH-induced regeneration. The experimental variables, for investigating the regeneration process, were method of regeneration and grade of water used. Thermal regeneration at 70°C seemed to work successfully. Although the cost of using thermal energy is still a problem, the safety aspect (fire hazards) has been addressed since the polymer does not ignite when heated, unlike fine coal particles that may do so. The alternative method of regeneration, which exploits the pH-sensitivity of the polymer, was less successful, and further work needs to be conducted.
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