Source: Aker Solutions

Daniel Mahr, P.E of US based
Energy Associates, P.C, gives us
an in depth look at the major
issues relating to coal quality
from the perspective of
Thermal power generation.


he power industry is confronting
challenges with seemingly conflicting
goals – affordable rates, dependable

service, and reduced impacts. Different
energy conversion technologies have their
applications, but no single option does it
all. Wind, solar, and hydro options don’t use
any fuel, so shouldn’t we just rely on these
technologies? Wind power is best sited where
the duration/velocity makes sense, away
from migration pathways, and away from
neighbours who would object to noise and
fluttering shadows. It will likely require 100
per cent back-up or additional energy storage
systems, and new longer transmission lines
to load centres are often required. There are
similar requirements for solar power, just
substitute lumens for velocity. With hydro
power, there are concerns for fish migration/
spawning, land use, geological concerns for

Industrial Fuels and Power l

This can lead to quality control systems can further reduce l Industrial Fuels and Power . Coal is to do more with less. temperatures and calcium content of the Recognizing the importance of fuel limestone reduce the formation/discharge What’s Coal? quality. cycling. fractions of ash can become Nucla Station. been the fuel of choice in many countries particular coal’s ash fusion temperature. So as we see. stored in fuel to electrical energy. mine to mine. largest. process requirements. Coal ash/impurities can oil. it can In a CFB boiler.‘‘ supporting the weight of a new lake. operating cost for a gas. emissions. has gradually increased since the technology as a source of energy. or coal -fired electrical power generating minerals to coal. stability of solar energy that has transformed carbon increasing fuel cost as the demand for the concerns for newly saturated perimeter hills dioxide and water molecules into compounds most desirable sources escalates. monitoring more intensive. its heating value. moisture content. It restrictive. Products power plant is converting the chemical energy residue of this mineral matter is ash. of combustion including SOX and NOX The single. as a means to do more with less. The combustion the ash itself must be collected. Plant compounds must be controlled. reliability. value. ash to atomized particles of liquid fuels. hydrogen. as a means of ash and its constituents are basic design Circulating fluidized bed (CFB) boilers we are purchasing energy value. central power plants provide the conditions introduce non-combustible heating surfaces. and on-demand situations. costs and environmental impacts. the geologic and climate conditions. central power stations. the purposes are impurities. coal quality quality control systems. The They can be strategically located near load composition. so emission Coal is formed from organic plant matter. The absorption of nutrients impurities determine the size and design minimize the cost of production. and oxygen. Parameters such as heating vortex. and even gaseous matrix to form a large. For large. dependent. and efficiency Combustion Technology Issues goals make fuel quality an issue. in an EPRI (Electrical Power industrial revolution and has historically partially fused and sticky. Fine coal particles react similarly baseload. coal specifications have become more of SOX and NOX compounds. that can result in landslides. sulphur content. Their size the most difficult to extract and burn. That’s the reason it fueled the temperatures. and amount of coal. and ash quantity are important reaction time is measured in seconds. Tube/refractory crushed limestone. A high As power plants face a growing need to reduce parameters for the boiler and the back-end air performance engine needs a high quality fuel. it is also the most and availability. which for combustion form deposits on heat transfer surfaces and station is fuel. erosion and corrosion are issues too. Depending upon a Research Institute) sponsored program. At high combustion was first commercially demonstrated at the economical. by plants and the geological sediments/ of the furnace/boiler and placement of the Large. PC capital cost of the plant itself is only a for each individual deposit is time and process boilers combust a suspension of finely ground single component. The amount design. Its the delivered Coal is created over aeons with favourable pulverized coal-fired (PC) boilers have cost on your utility bill that counts. when we purchase a fuel.. so coal properties vary from coal that is blown into the furnace in a region to region. Coal quality affects are a more recent design option. India and China the flow of combustion gases. In the simplest terms. The results evolved as the technology of choice. and the impact containing carbon. and controls start in the combustion zone. stable flame reliability and flexibility utilities require for seam to seam. of a drought on production. coal quality is increasingly an issue of interest. fuel is combusted at for power generation.COAL QUALITY CONTROL ‘‘As power plants face a growing need to reduce costs and environmental impacts. It continues to be the adhere to heating surfaces building up as slag lower temperatures in an aerated/fluidized fuel of choice for new power generation for on water-walls and bridging tubes to obstruct bed of material that typically includes counties with high growth. Air is the stored product of the photosynthesis penalties more expensive. is increasingly an issue of interest. The centres or along transmission corridors and in maintaining boiler rating. and the provide the economy of scale needed to performance. but plant performance in efficiency. The lower combustion for instance.

The specific gravity of marketable “product”. so too has the any mining plan is to maximize recovery of on rank. The cost associated with the process. hardness. depending upon has its own. Resource Management clean by traditional methods. Mine development has sunk costs plant typically contains different circuits in an economic environmental clean-up that should be “spread” over as much coal delineated by particle size. like coal So while coal quality control is an issue Coal preparation plants operate at a Lower rank coals are particularly difficult to of importance. it’s cost effective to retrieve as this property is employed by a variety of refuse than they do today. In this process. One objective of coal ranges from 1. Various quality for any given mine can also change dewatering screens. The relatively long residence mines. there is obviously a capital and operating process. as lower seams are used or new used to separate the product and recover boilers are being developed/demonstrated. roof stability. its means and methodology Coal Preparation cannot be separated from its utilization. thickeners. Other combustion technologies. Coal impurities sink to the funnel outlet. moisture. and ash content. those that are <0. the top of the froth bed. This fact and the much of a given resource that is economically separation methodologies. areas exposed.5mm. particles attach to rising bubbles and stay in makes this combustion technology useful for Mine plans recognize the spatial attributes the froth while hydrophilic mineral particles lower quality fuels – fuels that are difficult of coal quality. Long-term relationships with the medium.72. The strength of different elements within the coal means that some of the energy value reports mining engineer is responsible for developing matrix are key parameters for mechanical to the “refuse” or “tailings” rather than the the mining plan. Mineral efficiency of the process. coalescent issues. the processes employed and coal properties. The larger particle circumstance. As a result.COAL QUALITY CONTROL emissions. pitch. The cost of cleaned coal is more than relative density. ratios. There are economic “cut-off” fraction from 6 to 18mm will normally that were discarded over decades near older parameters that impact the mine plan. than complacent. Secondly. the plan will typically of the floatation cell. monitoring production. Older plants the deposit of suitable quality coal. For the primary fuel for some CFB boilers. A coal preparation advancement of CFB technology has resulted possible. cleaning processes. The purpose of coal preparation is to improve Combustion technology and fuel quality are the quality of coal by cleaning to remove the mined product for two reasons. a requirements. outset will truncate the life of the mine. must be removed to expose a given quantity froth flotation is used.23 to 1. unique requirements. the lighter coal particles swirl upward to a problematic for suspension firing in a Mining only the highest quality seams at the clean coal discharge while higher density PC boiler. First. rather given level of efficiency. take longer to fully combust. etc. The co-firing of coal with biomass and other a mine should recognize how quality can solid fuels is also practical. Hydrophobic coal time for fuel within the combustion zone depth. friability. it can be the seam height. For underground conditioned feed pulp is introduced onto preparation plants are adept at meeting these Coal specifications vary with user Industrial Fuels and Power l . This is an impurities have higher densities and discarded much more energy with the economic issue. Each technology change and continue to be vigilant. and filters are gasification and pressurized fluidized bed over time. and combustion requirements. some seams will be better pass through it and discharge at the bottom to ignite. inorganic impurities and sizing for handling. Large tailing accumulations as possible. As coal preparation and managing operations. and than others. Cyclones are used and contain large quantities of impurities that are manage mining areas to balance coal quality. and the efficiency of the coal preparation process Coal quality control begins at the mine. the issues include strip a vibrating jig or dense medium bath. how much overburden or interburden the smallest particles. The most successful coal contained in a coal seam. depending technology has advanced. For contain coarse rock that can be separated by coal preparation plants are being reclaimed as open cast mines.

It can be that best meets plant requirements. Coal export countries have adapted to technology Table 1: Blending techniques Extend mining reserves Minimize selective mining Combine dissimilar coals Reduce fuel variability Produce prescription fuel products Bed X X X Belt X X X advances by producing “world class” fuel for export and a lower quality product for Bed blending is a technique used by local plants. There are two types of blending that can be used. if their cars run known sources are stacked in segregated that meets reliability parameters for boiler fine with it. It has been particularly becomes an issue. There are economic/utilization plant performance and controlling product for some boiler designs. blending can be employed to: 1) reduce fuel variability or 2) combine different raw coals into a useful fuel product. bed blending provides a reliable. There is no single product specification that applies to all users. A prime objective for any fuel buyer Belt blending is a second methodology Blending is useful in a number of phases of coal extraction. Coal blending is being used by a growing number of utilities to gain more control of fuel characteristics while maintaining or reducing fuel cost. preparation. total the marketability and sales of indigenous raw materials into a stable homogenous ash. which are suitable for many PC boilers in coal import countries. distinctly different receipts from environmental requirements in a manner opt for a lower octane fuel. although there are generally recognized requirements that can be considered “world class” coal products. local quality parameters. the recipe reasons for establishing different export and quality. that affect its acceptability refuse piles. l Industrial Fuels and Power Figure 1: Chevron stockpile cross-section for bed blending . plants. It is used to reduce the random will consider fuel price on an energy basis. The recipe As illustrated in Table 1. which is important to optimising iron.COAL QUALITY CONTROL ‘‘In theory. repeatable methodology to reduce the variability of raw materials. Fuel quality then and one that is most widely used by power and utilization. variability of raw materials by implementing US$/MMBtu or €/MJ. sulphur content. The objectives are to increase process industries to convert heterogeneous will normally consider heating value. In this stockpile management popular at some plants to address changing car drivers bypass expensive gas stations and technique. bed and belt blending. sodium. with relatively small margins of error. For sure. etc. This is the case in the US Blending provides a tool to more closely match coal quality to user requirements. “ purchase requirements. Depending upon the objectives. is to negotiate a better deal. coal deposits have wide variations of heating of different situations: It’s true for our cars and true for our power value and other properties. Coal Blending stockpile management techniques. what’s acceptable? Many plants. Belt and bed advantageous for mine-mouth plants whose blending techniques are suitable for a number Premium fuels usually have premium prices. and other elements like resources while avoid discarding energy in product. stockpiles. Combinations of stockpiles are operation while minimizing the cost impact reclaimed at predetermine rates to a recipe to customers.

from In theory. i. blend the too good with the too bad into an each layer has the same volume as controlled by the stacking rate and the traverse speed S = of the stacker. the Navajo Mine’s coal reserves be combined on the basis of a number of filling. automatically monitor and control the output The design of the reclaimer is important layers are simultaneously reclaimed. sample illustrates the concept. after switching to a subbituminous coal. Bed Blending Figure 2: individual/unique stockpiles are simultaneously reclaimed in belt blending Figure 1 illustrates the chevron/windrow a result. other stacking/ reclaim methodologies can be used.COAL QUALITY CONTROL where numerous plants which have blended different coals to meet emission requirements for SOx. Belt blending combines the characteristics of two or more different grades of coal. During stockpile is a representative sample of reclaim. uniform product. Each slice contains vary from less than 7000 to approximately characteristics. and cake. the volume or weight. repeatable methodology to reduce systems are then employed to monitor input/ variability of all layers is thereby blended by the variability of raw materials.e. due to geological a layer cake. What the bed blending piles do is “cover” a larger cross section surface area. the plant was able to deliver an method for bed blending. Weight is the more the cross section of the stockpile.200 Btu/lb. amount of In belt blending. The following the average can be tweaked to stay within fixed. successive layers become thinner as they equation for the standard deviation of a the limits. bed blending provides a of reclaim feeders. Mining is not a random subsequent layer completely covers the stockpile. Conventional sample the base of the stockpile to its surface. Belt Blending Figure 2 illustrates belt blending technology for quality control. increase heating value to meet full load requirements. As 10. linear stacker. This can be energy value. Coal is sequentially can vary significantly. Wild hourly swings are blended operation. a section of the windrow from toe-to-toe So stacking lots of layers is a preferred weigh bins. The objective is to reclaim of layers in the stockpile increases. The reliable. At the output of the bed blending system. If the traverse speed of the stacker is is of statistical importance. grades of coal can Industrial Fuels and Power l . or to mitigate problems associated with the iron or sodium content.47 Btu/ layered by a travelling. fuel to the boilers. or belt scales can be used to of the stockpile. while the properties of each layer system. thus forming a chevron cross into weekly averages. sulphur content. accurate method since precise weigh feeders. Like Four Corners Plant. each slice reclaims some of the circumstances. As the number combined most commonly by either for bed blending. If large lumps are present. to “slice” standard deviation from the mean decreases. Each grade is individually stockpiled and physically segregated. these stockpiles are proportionally the entire mine product. 2 ∑ (X . multiple methodology. while smaller particles and fines tend to accumulate in the centre of the cross section. The number of layers what’s going into the bed blending pile and section. When this segregation is problematic. these will roll down the sloped surface of the stockpile and collect at the base. elements from the first layer to the last. Because of the bed blending percent ash. frosting.X) N-1 Where: S = the standard deviation X = each value in the sample X = the mean of the values N = the number of values The fully formed. so the operators are cognizant of previous layer. the properties of each average blended product of 9000 +/. window acceptable. In this manner. layered. Each slice closely resemble the mean value of the lb. each reclaim slice of the cross section.

3. it is a simplification of the quality of the blended product can be per cent ash was originally established as what can be expected from grades of coal that problematic. The plant was That can require a large stockpile area. Some the coal blending process is an on-line combustion problems. Laboratory reports are not available The percent ash was evaluated as a primary values of each component is known and until after-the-fact. stockpile. to avoid be tracked and its average adjusted. dozer. the analyser includes having ash that is 15 to 20 per cent. Laboratory testing and test burns 440MW. Belt scales provide real-time control complexity of the lignite formations and an of the proportional reclaim rate from each annual 52 inch rainfall are mining challenges. Eutectics come into play software to determine the heating value on-line analysers were retrofitted to the coal so a blend of two coals can result in an ash (Btu/lb) of the coal. and hydrogen. The second silo is filled with lignite certain minerals – particularly iron. when things just start to go the upper operating limit. these analysers can measure lignite having an ash content of 15 per cent nature. While 23. younger. quality. The laboratory analysis of collected A combination of truck-shovel. coal is stored in . Three and magnesium. For characteristics “X”. Red Hills before making a long-term commitment can Power Plant located in northern Mississippi. information concerning the elemental subjected to the rejection of coal deliveries. calcium. carbon. amount. on-line handling system. composition of coal. accurate. On-line nuclear coal experiencing forced outages and “derated” analysers provide fast. that is not always the case. real-time operating periods while the mine was be relatively simple and straight forward. On the coal quality scale. These analysers utilize the power plant experienced financial distress individually stacking each shipment of coal. and samples reports the results of input/output dragline are used to remove the parting layers. Ash softening composition of coal including identification temperature is a property that is important of sulphur. the softening temperature that is lower than nuclear coal analysers have the potential to following equation can be used to calculate either. variable lignite seams that are separated conventional belt scales and sampling by thick interburden parting layers.5 constant. For precise wrong or when the input is erratic/variable. The Red Hill’s mine has relatively Most belt blending systems rely on thin. 2. lower heating value product than On-line Analysis the bituminous coal that internationally marketed. individual coal. two Eurosilos. This delay in discovering indicator for boiler problems. As such. One controls the input to While the mathematics may appear to l Industrial Fuels and Power At the Red Hills Plant. oxygen. with corresponding to water in a car’s radiator. and relative percentages of moisture and ash content. Based on the or less. be important when selecting a new coal USA. mine-mouth. measured constituents. operations began the practical upper limit applications. It is similar to what optimise the sulphur content and the heating proportional blending: occurs with adding antifreeze conditioner value of the coal blend. lignite is a for blending. The systems. once commercial are at least somewhat variable. Both the mine and power plants will manage their stockpiles by nuclear coal analyser.COAL QUALITY CONTROL sodium. the quality of each stockpile can The most direct method of controlling was discovered to be 18 per cent. etc. The -34°C environmental and economic advantages for freezing temperature for 50/50 blend of the operating plant. gamma radiation to determine the elemental due to coal quality issues. As a result. It depends upon the In addition. One silo is now filled with to furnace slagging. …n = various specific components or parameters being blended b = the blended product This equation assumes that the mean ethylene glycol and water is lower than either Poor lignite fuel quality plagued the component. CFB. n Xb = Σ σi Xi i=1 = σ1 X1 + σ2 X2 + σ3 X3 + … + σn Xn where: X = the value being controlled σ = the proportional amount of each component i = a suffix to indicate the particular component being controlled 1.

” the Eurosilos. While most of the coal will be supplied from a local mine. The other two analysers control advanced combustion control technologies. and different reasons to select one recipe or technology instead of another. not at the Longview Power Plant. which is fitted with an will be done at the adjacent Blending Yard. West Virginia. different tastes in boilers. West Virginia makes extensive use of an on-line coal analyser in order to insure that blending operations are as effective as possible. Bypassing the plant plant’s boiler silos meets the plant’s operating preparation plant and coal blending yard. With this when it begins operating in 2011. retrofit. constructed in Maidsville. situated in Maidsville. consider visiting the company’s website ( The 696MW Longview power plant. Blending is a 695MW supercritical PC plant being receiving conveyor. overland conveyor the plant’s stockpile or directly conveyed to the quality of coal that is conveyed to the system. The stockpile should be an efficient mode of requirements. most efficient solid-fuel power plants in the US. Via a wireless network. on-line coal analyser. It will be one of the cleanest. with The on-line coal analyser on Longview’s coal receiving conveyor will give the plant The design system provides the flexibility to mix-and-match what’s delivered to Longview. mine-mouth coal can be diverted to these operation but it makes the quality of the coal The US$2. the coal analyser will communicate coal quality data to mobile equipment reclaim operators in the Blending Yard. Source: Aker Solutions. a variety of products handled and stored at the Blending Yard can be blended with the mine-mouth coal. the mine and plant have learned a mine-mouth plant from which coal is The delivered coal can either be stacked into how to coordinate their actions to ensure delivered by a five-mile.0bn Longview Power Plant facilities and/or directly routed to Longview’s receipts of immediate importance. n For more information on this topic or if you are interested in Energy Associates and its expertise in this arena.COAL QUALITY CONTROL “ Laboratory testing and test burns before making a long-term commitment can be important when selecting a new coal for blending. Quality Control So as we see. or contacting the author via email at: DanMahr@Energy-PC. there are different flavours of coal. This is of coal quality being delivered to the plant. Adjacent to Longview is a coal Longview’s boiler Coal is an economical source of energy and controlling coal quality is a way to do more with less. They will be able to alter/adjust their reclaim activities to best meet coal quality requirements. Industrial Fuels and Power l . and the blending yard real-time readings the belt blending reclaim system.