Prospects for chemical coal cleaning (Technical Note)

Boron, D. J. ; Kollrack, R.
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 3
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1987
Introduction The US has the largest total (364 Gt, or 401 billion st) and recoverable (182 Gt, or 201 billion st) coal reserves in the world (Steam/Its Generation and Use, 1978). However, progressive coal use in this country has been hampered by environmental constraints, such as restrictions on sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and particulate emissions. Since the promulgation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) New Source Performance Standards (NSPS), it has become apparent that all US coals will require sulfur removal to comply with the new sulfur dioxide emission levels. If more stringent emission standards are imposed, through pending acid rain legislation or amendments to the Clean Air Act, it is likely that the coal industry, and the industrial and utility sectors will look increasingly toward the development of new and advanced coal cleaning technologies to continue and promote the use of coal. Table 1 summarizes the EPA NSPS for sulfur dioxide emissions. Fortunately, the basis for determining sulfur dioxide removal is the Btu and total sulfur content of the run-of-mine coal. Thus, credit is given for any sulfur removed before combustion, e.g., through physical coal cleaning. Unfortunately, physical coal cleaning alone may be unable to produce a compliance coal with respect to the EPA NSPS. Therefore, all industrial and utility coal-fired boilers will require post combustion gas cleanup, e.g., flue gas desulfurization (FGD), to comply with the new regulations. Table 1 - EPA NSPS for SO2 Emission Category SO2 Content of ROM Coal SO2 Reduction Required 1 0-2 Ib/M Btu 70 2 2-6 Ib/M Btu To 0.6 Ib/M Btu (70% to 90%) 3 6-12 Ib/M Btu 90% 4 12 Ib/M Btu To 1.2 Ib/M Btu Alternatives to post combustion gas cleanup, such as staged combustion, lime and coal injection, fluidized-bed combustion, and chemical coal cleaning, are currently under development. Of these, chemical coal cleaning offers the advantages of providing (1) high quality fuel for combustion (low sulfur and ash, high Btu, and attenuated product variability); (2) a solid fuel product for use in retrofitted gas and oil boilers; and (3) a solid fuel product with multiple end uses, e.g., internal combustion engines, carbon electrodes, coke, or chemical feedstock. Gravimelt process In the Gravimelt process, 1.4 mm x 0 (14 mesh x 0), physically beneficiated coal of about 5% moisture is fed into a 3401 to 3901 C (644 ° to 734 ° F) molten bath of sodium hydroxide and potassium hydroxide. Organic and pyritic sulfur and most of the mineral matter in coal react with and are dissolved in a molten mixture of potassium hydroxide and sodium hydroxide. The reacted coal sulfur is converted to alkali sulfides and polysulfides, whereas the mineral matter is apparently converted to alkali-aluminum silicates and other byproducts that are water and acid soluble. Coal residence time is 60 to 240 minutes. The sodium hydroxide to potassium hydroxide ratio is about 9:1. The total hydroxide-to-coal ratio is no less than 10:1. The specific gravity of the caustic melt is about 1.8 g/cm3 . Thus, coal is buoyant in the bath, and insoluble mineral matter with density greater than 1.8 g/cm3 would sink. Reacted coal is first water-washed with an equal weight volume of water in a countercurrent mode of operation. The coal is filtered and the filtrate sent for regeneration. The coal is then acid-washed in 10% sulfuric acid. The acid-water/coal mixture is filtered to recover the final coal product, and the filtrate treated with lime to precipitate dissolved mineral matter. The precipitate is filtered from the mixture and discarded. The water is recycled to the plant. Filtrate from water-washing is treated to remove sodium sulfide. The sodium sulfide is chemically treated to produce hydrogen sulfide, calcium car¬bonate, sodium hydroxide, and other products. The hydrogen sulfide is treated to produce sulfuric acid for the acid-washing step. The calcium carbonate is treated further or discarded, and the sodium hydroxide is concentrated by evaporation and recycled to the reactor. The Gravimelt process is currently at the bench-scale stage of development. A 0.9-kg (2-lb) continuous reactor is in operation with a continuous water- and acid-washing section adjacent. The regeneration section is not developed to a meaningful extent, although key reactions have been tested in the laboratory. Process conditions, product recovery efficiencies, etc., however, have not been determined adequately and continuous regeneration operation has not been attempted. Work is now in progress to develop each section to a continuous bench-scale operation in processing coal at 9.1 kg/h (20 lb per hr). Microwave process The carbon and hydrogen in coal are relatively transparent to microwave radiation. However, water, caustic, pyrite, and other mineral matter components are strong conductors of microwave radiation energy at the proper frequency. As a result, selective heating of the noncarbonaceous materials occurs that enables the chemical reaction of sulfur and ash with caustic. Although very high temperatures may result from
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