Babu, Suresh P. ; Leonard, Joseph W. ; Muter, Richard ; Sen, D. P.
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 32
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1985
OUTLOOK FOR COAL UTILIZATION In 1975, about 650 million tons of bituminous coal and lignite mined in the United States was used to meet 55% of the primary energy input for electric power generation and 26% of the total industrial consumption.1 Even though this amounts to only 21% of the total energy requirements, it is believed that with the declining natural gas resources and uncertainty of liquid fuel imports, coal will assume a more dominant role in suppplying our future energy needs. A regional breakdown of the coal reserves of the United States along with their characteristics is shown in Table I. At present the United Stares Energy Research and Development Administration (ERDA) and the US Bureau of Mines (USBM) are financing extensive research programs in advanced mining methods and energy conversion processes. The increased demand for wal which may result from these research programs may also create large-scale environmental protection problems. As more and more coal is mined the production of undesirable coal fines and dust also increases proportionally. The USBM and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) research in this field includes development in the areas of instrumentation for qualitative and quantitative analysis of wal dust, protective devices, and dust collectors. Dust control by water sprays, steam, and foam are also being investigated. Other aspects of safety in mining include developing methane drainage techniques prior to coal mining, fire and explosion prevention, and neutralization and disposal of acid mine waters. It is the belief of coal technologists that when the emphasis shifts to coal as the primary source of energy. the existing methods of mining and preparation of coal must be improved considerably to supply large quantities of quality coal for energy conversion. It is the objective of the present large-scale research financed by ERDA to produce substitute fuels from coal. Large-scale gasification pilot plants are being constructed by Bituminous Coal Research, Consolidation Coal Co., Institute of Gas Technology, and the Pittsburgh Energy Research Center to produce coal gas of natural gas standards at 1,000 psig. The processes being adopted by these pilot plants are oriented towards recovering most of the sulfur from coal by absorbing H2S and its subsequent conversion to elemental sulfur. The environmental protection standards will be strictly followed in using the results of these pilot plants to construct large-scale coal gasification plants in the latter part of the 1970's. With the increasing awareness of the need for air pollution control, considerable research is being done to minimize sulfur dioxide emission from thermal power plants. Utilization of limestone and dolomite scrubbing systems and caustic treatment of stack gases have proved to reduce sulfur and nitric oxide emissions by about 90 to 96%.3 Currently, about 22 scrubbers are in use in the United States to reduce sulfur in stack gas emission. In the long-term, it appears that optimal combinations will be developed involving both advanced coal preparation technology and wet scrubbing. The sulfur compounds are converted either to elemental sulfur of sulfuric acid. Besides the sulfur compounds, the major byproduct of the coal utilization industry is the large amount of coal ash. The Coal Research Bureau at West Virginia University has developed a practical use for coal ash as a structural material. The coal industry will undergo revolutionary changes when coal becomes the primary source of energy. New coal mining and preparation processes will be introduced to meet the ever-increasing per capita energy requirements. 2. BENEFICATION Introduction Coal preparation, like the beneficiation of ores, is also aimed at the separation of values from associated waste. Even though the unit operations involved when enriching ores and coal are similar, there are certain characteristics unique to coal preparation. Unlike the scattered and concentrated veins of underground minera1 ores, coal is distributed uniformly and very much in abundance in the coal mines. Coal occurs as the metamorphosed sedimentary deposits of vegetable matter, while metal and mineral deposits occur in great varieties of forms, structures, and origin-from igneous to sedimentary and metamorphic. The mined coal, being much more friable than mineral ores, is subjected to less intensive size reduction operations. Ores are usually ground to a very fine size for subsequent concentration, while coal is crushed to a coarser size, since considerably less liberation is needed to achieve the desired degree of separation. Since mineral matter is to a great extent discretely distributed in coal, concentration is mainly achieved by taking advantage of differences in specific gravity between clean coal and associated waste. In general, about 90% of coal is concentrated using specific gravity separation and about 10% by froth flotation. In contrast, these operations are frequently reversed in the beneficiation of ores. In coal preparation almost all fractions separated during various stages are made use of. while large amounts of gangue material are rejected in the concentration of ores. Hence, coal generally has a much lower ratio of concentration than ores. Since ore deposits are frequently more variable and mineralogically complex than coal, beneficiation of ore may require more plant flexibility and point-to-point quality control. This characteristic difference between the mineral ores and coal is attributed to the generally used one-step processing in coal as compared to the multiple-step processing of ores. Dewatering to enhance the energy content of coal is usually considered a major unit operation. Even though thickening and filtration are common for dewatering ore concentrates and cleaned coal, vibrating centrifuges and disk filters find unique application in the coal industry for achieving these types of solid-fluid separation. In coal preparation, thermal drying is carried out in separate units at the mine. While ore concentrates are usually dried at the smelter. Although the drying of ores is seldom considered dangerous, volatile matter and combustible dust are reasons why the thermal drying of coal can be hazardous. Open air storage of ores and mined coal results in partial oxidation. Unlike the oxidation of ores, the oxidation of the pyritic and carbonaceous constituents of coal together with the heat of condensation of moisture contribute to spontaneous heating and the subsequent combustion of coal in storage. Among the other significant difference between concentration of ores and coal are the weight and capacity of processing equipment. Coal processing employs less cumbersome, higher capacity units while the beneficiation of ores usually requires much more massive and frequently lower capacity equipment. Properties of Coal Which Influence Design The widely varying and heterogeneous composition of coal, due to metamorphism, determines the preparation design and uses of the resulting products. Petrography serves as a useful system of classification to identify the coal types present and their distribution. Early
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