Desulfurization of coal by microbial flotation in a semicontinuous system

Nagaoka, T. ; Ohmura, N. ; Saiki, H.
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 6
Publication Date: Jan 1, 2000
A microbiological flotation system that facilitates the removal of pyritic sulfurfrom coal is reported. The chemoautotrophic bacterium Thiobacillus ferrooxidans is utilized as a pyrite-selective biological surfactant that augments the flotation-mediated rejection of pyritic sulfur. The bacteria were produced by continuous cultivation in 50-L tanks, where it was possible to produce 3.8 x 1012 cells/day when the dilution rate was optimal and the pH was 1.6, a condition that prevented ferric precipitation. Prior to flotation, the bacteria were mixed with coal, which allowed cells to selectively adhere to the pyrite. The adherence of bacteria made the pyrite surfaces more hydrophilic, which facilitated separation by increasing the tendency of pyrite to sink, while the hydrophobic coal floated. When a synthetic coal/pyrite mixture (10.1 % sulfur) was subjected to microbial flotation, the level of sulfur rejection was stable during the entire period of operation (i.e., one hour). In the absence of bacteria, flotation reduced the sulfur content of a coal/pyrite mixture to within the range of 6.7% to 7.4%, with the combustible recoveries ranging from 93.9% to 99.0%. In the presence of bacteria, the sulfur content of cleaned coal was in the range of 1.3% to 1.4%, with the combustible recoveries ranging from 80.8% to 86.3%. Bacterial activity accounted for 57% of the total sulfur rejected through flotation. The desulfurization capacity of the system was further confirmed by testing it with run-of-mine coal. The pyritic sulfur content was reduced from 2.9% in the feed coal to around 1.2% in the froth product, while 80% of the combustible recovery was retained. Microbial flotation removed 60% of the pyritic sulfur from the feed. These findings demonstrated that micro¬bial flotation could be utilized for the removal of pyritic sulfur from coal in a semicontinuous system.
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