Technical Note - Effect of clays on the settling behavior of coal and pyrite

Menon, V. B. ; Michaels, L. D. ; Mullins, M. E. ; Woods, M. C.
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 3
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1988
Introduction The cleaning of coal to remove sulfur and inorganic impurities has, in recent years, become an essential operation in any coal utilization process. US coals, on average, contain about 3% total sulfur, of which more than 60% is generally inorganic or pyritic sulfur. Existing technologies such as heavy media cycloning, selective agglomeration, and electrostatic separation have the potential for removing about 80% of the pyrite from coal (Khoury, 1981). In view of the large volumes of coal being used today, there exists a need for the development of new processes to further improve the separation of pyrite from coal. Colloidal particles in suspension possess surface charges that are related to the chemical composition of the particles. In aqueous suspensions, the surface charge is a function of pH. For coal-pyrite mixtures, it is possible, by an adjustment of the pH (also a function of polar molecules), to reach a state where the charge on coal is very close to zero, but the charge on pyrite is still substantial. The introduction of collector particles with a charge opposite that of the pyrite should then result in the selective flocculation of pyrite and collec¬tor. These flocculates should settle out much faster than coal and could be removed from the bottom of the settling column. This note discusses our preliminary observations of the effect of clay-based collector particles, especially bentonite, on the settling behavior of coal and pyrite. These experiments were conducted with a view to developing a new electrokinetic flocculation process for separation of coal-pyrite mixtures. Experimental The objective of the experiments was to determine the effects of clay-based additives on the settling rates of clean coal, pyrite, and coal-pyrite mixtures. Illinois Colchester (No. 2) coal was obtained after processing in an existing coal cleaning facility. This coal was reported to contain less than 0.3% pyritic sulfur, which was in the form of a fine powder with an average particle size of 5µm. Pyrite (of average particle size 5 µm) was also obtained from the same facility and reportedly contained less than 0.1% coal. The zeta potentials of coal and pyrite in water were measured as a function of pH using a zetameter. The pH was adjusted by adding sodium hydroxide or hydrochloric acid to the suspensions. Sedimentation experiments were conducted in 50-mL glass cylinders, and settling rates were measured by noting the height of clear liquid above the settling front as a function of time. Settling behavior was also charted by periodically taking photographs of the system. The following systems were investigated: •a slurry consisting of 2.5 g of clean Illinois Colchester coal in 50 mL of water of pH 6.0, with and without the addition of 0.5 g of bentonite (Fisher, purified grade) ; • a slurry consisting of 2.5 g of pyrite in 50 mL water of pH 6.0, with and without the addition of 0.5 g of bentonite ; and • a slurry consisting of a mixture of 1.25 g clean coal and 1.25 g pyrite in 50 mL water of pH 6.0, with and without the addition of 0.5 g of bentonite. In addition, experiments were conducted with kaolinite (Bath, South Carolina) and alumina (Fisher, purified grade) as collector materials to verify the observed effects. Results and discussion Figure 1 shows the zeta potential values for the Illinois coal and pyrite as a function of pH. The zeta potentials of coal and pyrite decrease with increasing pH, changing from an initially positive value at low pH to a negative value at high pH. The point of zero charge (PZC) for the coal is at a pH of 6.2, while the PZC for pyrite occurs at a pH of 10.3.
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