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Coal Prep & Handling


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Major Topic Sections

Fossil-fueled Power
Non-Fossil Generation
End-Use Efficiency
Electricity T&D
Carbon Sequestration
Non-CO2 Reductions
Other GHG Reductions

Related topics in this section

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Advanced Coal Power
Turbine Efficiency
Cogeneration & CHP
Natural Gas
Upgrading Controls
Plant Equip. Upgrades
Coal Prep & Handling


 Improving Coal Preparation and Handling


Note that changing the coal preparation processes can result in changes in the quantity, and sometimes the quality, of the eventual coal combustion products (CCPs). This in turn may affect the marketability of the CCPs. More information on CCPs and their potential contributions to GHG reductions may be found under the topic of Coal Combustion Products.

Coal contains varying amounts of rock and other impurities that become part of the mined product, and significant amounts of underlying and overlying materials are often mined in the process. To remove these ash and sulfur impurities and to increase the coal's heating value, much of the U.S. steam coal supply is cleaned, particularly bituminous coals in the eastern U.S. Coal cleaning techniques range from simple washing with water and mechanical separation of waste products to advanced chemical cleaning processes. Utilities burning cleaned coal often find that the savings it offers in transportation costs, fuel handling, plant efficiency, availability, and environmental controls compensate for the added cost.

Coal water slurry technologies provide a means for generating a useful, cost-effective fuel from currently discarded coal fines that are created during cleaning operations. This technology also provides better control of combustion processes inside the furnace and offers the potential of reducing start-up costs by partially replacing oil. Reduced emissions are possible due to the composition of the slurry.

Improved coal quality can result in:

  Reduced coal transportation costs and fewer transportation emissions of CO2, because less ash and more Btu per pound are being transported to the power plant
  Reduced coal handling equipment maintenance costs, because there will be less hard, abrasive material to grind and pulverize
  Reduced combustion waste products transportation costs, and fewer transportation emissions of CO2 because of the reduction in the volume of waste materials being transported from power plants to disposal sites
  Reduced ash handling equipment maintenance costs, because there will be reduced ash volume
  Reduced ash leachate control and disposal costs due to reduction in pyrites and other wastes
  Reduced coal pile leachate and storm water runoff control costs due to a reduction in the concentration of pollutant originally in the coal
  Increased boiler availability, efficiency, and life expectancy, because of reduced slagging, fouling, corrosion, and erosion
  Reduced particulate and SO2 control operating and maintenance costs, because of the reduced ash and sulfur content

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 Power Partners Projects

Great River Energy (GRE) will soon begin a full-scale, advanced clean coal technology demonstration at its Coal Creek Station in North Dakota as part of the Clean Coal Power Initiative (CCPI) with industry and DOE. The thermal coal drying project will capture and reuse excess heat to dry the coal, increasing its heating value and resulting in an estimated increase in efficiency of about five percent.

Great River Energy (GRE) will supply the energy to fuel a 50-million gallon ethanol plant adjacent to its Coal Creek Station in Underwood, North Dakota. Sixty percent of the energy for the Blue Flint Ethanol facility, co-owned and operated by Headwaters, Incorporated, will come from waste steam generated by GRE’s Coal Creek Station, reducing energy costs and GHG emissions.

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 References, Sources, and Other Useful Data

Taylor & Francis Group (UK), "International Journal of Coal Preparation and Utilization" (formerly "Coal Preparation")

International Journal of Coal Preparation and Utilization publishes original research papers, short communications, review articles, book reviews, and symposium announcements covering all aspects of coal preparation. The journal is significant reading for all individuals involved with coal preparation, including those in operations, engineering, management, education, and scientific research. Topics include: coal properties and coal petrography; coal quality and characterization; surface chemistry of coal and minerals; crushing, grinding and liberation; coal screening and classification; dense medium and density separations; froth flotation and oil agglomeration; process control and optimization; flocculation and thickening; dewatering and thermal drying; briquetting and pelletizing; coal handling and storage; coal utilization and blending; waste disposal and pollution; utility waste product utilization; and carbon based material. Additional subjects covered by the journal include properties of coal/water and coal/oil slurries as well as the processing of oil shales and tarsands by physical and physiochemical methods.

U.S. Department of Energy, National Energy Technology Laboratory, “Development of a Coal Quality Expert™: A DOE Assessment" (DOE/NETL-2001/1133, November 2000)

The goal of this project was to deliver a software tool for utilities, coal producers, and equipment manufacturers that could analyze the impacts of coal quality, capital improvements, operational changes, and/or environmental compliance alternatives on power plant emissions, performance, and production costs. This software was named the Coal Quality Expert (CQE™). A CQE™ beta version was released in May 1995 and evaluated by several utilities by July 1995. Version 1.1 was released in June 1996. CQE™ has been distributed to about 25 utilities in the United States and one in the United Kingdom through membership in EPRI.

U.S. Department of Energy, National Energy Technology Laboratory, “Clean Coal Demonstrations:
Coal Treatments & Processes for Upgrading, Removal of Sulfur & Other Impurities, Etc.

This document provides a list of over 20 links to reports and newsletters related to coal cleaning.

U.S. Department of State, "Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate: Coal Mining Task Force Summary of Action Plan and Projects”

The Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate (APP) is a unique public-private initiative among government and private sector partners from Australia, China, India, Japan, the Republic of Korea and the United States.  The Coal Mining Task Force’s goal is to promote sustainable mining practices through improved coal preparation (beneficiation), methane capture from active and abandoned coal mines, underground coal gasification, and improved mine health and safety.  To meet this goal the Task Force has developed 16 initial projects and activities. Coal beneficiation prepares coal for the intended end use by removing or reducing impurities that interfere with clean combustion.  This process reduces the ash content of coal, thereby improving power plant efficiency and reducing air emissions, coal transportation costs, power plant maintenance costs, and ash disposal.  This process can potentially remove between 40-50 percent of the total sulfur, leading to a 20-25 percent reduction in emissions of sulfur dioxide.  The United States is leading the Coal Mining Task Force in facilitating technology transfer through workshops, demonstrations, and site visits among Partner countries to improve coal quality, increase recovery, and reduce costs. 

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