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Coal Quality – A New Paradigm

YP Chawla – Hd. Energy Sector Apollo Tyres

An Abstract:

Coal has been a driver of Growth accordingly has played and will continue to play a central role in
supporting Global Economic Development, alleviating poverty and is an essential resource in meeting the
World's Energy needs. Coal currently supports 26% of primary energy and 40% of Electricity Generation
and similarly in Steel, Cement & other Industry. Coal use is forecast to rise over 60% to 2030, with
developing countries responsible for 97% of this increase, primarily to meet electrification targets in India.

On analysis of Demand & availability of Coal by the Government of India, the decision to Import has
changed the face of coal imports across the country. India's thermal coal imports surged 100% in 2009, to
60 million tons (MT) up from just 30 MT a year before.

With India's focus now on Coal imports, a question is arising, where this international supply will come
from, what quality, what Price. “Quality” in a new paradigm that has gone beyond just the Chemical
Characteristics to Techno Economic Quality, its impact on other Resources like Water, Human health,
Combustion & Equipment Performance.’ Quality’ now provokes the advent of New Technologies to
combat the varying characteristics of Coal & the safe emitting pollutants. Thus “Coal Quality” needs a
comprehensive study for Optimized results- a New Paradigm for Coal Quality .

The aim of this paper is to present the impacts of Imported Coals to India, to maximize the value to
society as well as the impact on the complete Coal Chain Industry– including its production,
transportation, through to its utilization and ending at legacy issues, the Coal Quality comes as a major
Parameter needing to be optimized in terms of Techno Economic rating to decide Coal for its Quality.
Blending of Coal for Optimized results is presented in this Paper.

The Coal world across has been used and will continue to be used over next 119 years ( about 80 years
in India) of its balance estimated reserves, compared to next 46 years for oil and 63 years for gas
reserves. The Import of Coal for India must be taken as a bold entrepreneurial step by the Indian
Business Community to enhance, the otherwise lower Energy Security for India as conceived by the GoI.

These Coal imports are coming from all the parts of the Globe with various Coal Chemistries. The Indian
Entrepreneur has been able to rightly blend various quality and specification Coals, suiting to specific
Manufacturing Processes or in Power Generation to sustain levels of Economic Performance as foreseen
by GoI.

Sometime back, there were potential threats of Sulphur in the Coal. The Technologists came out with
Flue Gas Desulphurization, Pulverization has now provided opportunity to use Low – Anthracites in Steel
Manufacturing also, thus opening space for blending the Coals similar to Power Generation Industry’s
blend of High Moisture, High Calorific, High Volatile Coal from neighboring country with Indian Coals, thus
balancing the Coal Quality to achieve optimal Combustion Process, Controlling the Slag Chemistry for
maintaining high Plant Performance, Combustion Waste and Emissions.

Coal Quality is a thus not only a Challenge for blending various Coal Chemistries but now blending the
right technologies for a Specific Coal to reach the goals of Optimized Plant Operation results , the
delivered Product cost and ultimately the bottom line.  

Imports of Coal are seen as compulsions in India to be a net Coal Importer because of an
ambitious Power Sector Plans set for 12th Plan & subsequent requiring imports.
Location Wise Details‐12th Plan Shelf for 
Thermal Projects  

Pit Heads‐ 50,825 MW 

Load Centre‐35,915 MW 

Coastal ‐25,660 MW 

Total – 1,12,400 MW ( with a scenario of 
1,12,400MW against 76,500 MW) 
13th Plan :
A capacity addition requirement of about 1,02,000 MW has been assessed for the 13th Plan. In
addition 14,500 MW Hydro power is expected to be imported from Neighbouring countries in
addition to Import of Coal.

The Challenges of Development coupled with Global Warming – the mother of all Challenges
have made Industry go in for new business strategies. The Import of Coal is one such in the
Energy Sector.

Why Imports

These imports reaching from all

the parts of the Globe are, due to
compulsions of Non Availability
of Coal with in the Country due
to Mining Capacity, Productivity
and transport bottle neck.
Compulsions of Coal import and
on the hindsight looked as a
drive for National Economic
Energy Security by keeping the
own reserves intact for our future
generations. The Indian

Entrepreneur is thus able to blend Coals of various

qualities and specification suiting specific to its
Manufacturing Processes or in Power Generation
to sustain levels of Economic Performance, setting
new definition of Coal Quality – a mix of many
various parameters.

„ 75GW Thermal power addition planned

„ CIL has indicated additional coal availability of 100 MT sufficient to support 20 GW
capacities only.
„ There is also a shortfall for 11th Plan projects of the order of 150 MT.
„ Coal based projects expected from captive blocks allocated already 44 GW (if all
connected coal blocks are developed).
„ Thus, there is huge shortfall in coal availability for 12th Plan & 13th Plan.
Ref : TERI
„ Low quality of coal – high content of sulphur & ash
„ Low productivity in mines – as compared to American &
Australian mines
„ Poor transportation infrastructure
„ Rehabilitation of dislocated village – CIL plan to invest
Rs.40-50 billion in resettlement during 11th & 12th five year
„ Environmental concerns
„ Poor Technology – open cast mining. Underground mining has failed to take off.
„ Coal washing – Ministry of coal plans to expand from 63 MT to 163MT in 11th five year
An Unanticipated Shortage:

India’s coal reserves are not as large as previously thought. At the current usage rate, India’s
reserves would be depleted in 80 years. At the projected rate of growth in production, that
number becomes 40. Transporting coal is cumbersome and inefficient. Most of the domestic
reserves are concentrated in India’s eastern and central states, far from the urban centers most
in need of increased energy.

Coal Quality:

Various Coals may chemically

contain up to 76 elements of the
Periodic table (coloured as shown-
Blue generally more than 1% & Red
about 0.01%, Yellow as trace
elements less than 0.001%). As
Coal Quality, these are required to be studied for its impact on the environment. While the
quality study goes on by the experts, the Business Community will continue improving the
bottom line, with social pressures of saving the environment.

Because of varying Chemistries Coals of various variety gets developed due to age of Fossil
Matter under the mother earth and varying heat and
Pressure that got created around the areas presently ‘ The
Coal Mines’ Ref: 
Coal Quality – 
As we appreciate that the Economic Plans are often the
Stanley P 
product of an optimistic appraisal of Resource availability
(Coal Availability) and the constraints at hand. The
objectives, as a result, have a lofty air about them.
Perhaps it would not be amiss to call the planning process
an exercise in heightened optimism. We accordingly set
our Business economic plans and choose resources and
technology accordingly.

Coal Quality is Complex

Variety of factors determine the quality of Coal covering (1)
the plantations, plantation remains, and other organisms (such as bacteria) in the peat mire, (2)
Biological and Chemical processes and the degree of preservation of the plant matter, (3) the
geometry and location of the mire, (4) the mineral matter that accumulated with the plant
material or that was introduced at some later stage, and (5) Coalification, Geologic age and

Preferred Value Range

Rank High volatile bituminous VM content >30% (daf)

Total moisture content <15% (ar) Ash content < 25% (db)
Gross CV >22MJ kg-1 (ar) Nitrogen content <3% (db)
Sulphur content <2% (db) Chlorine content <0.5% (db)
Ash analysis <15% Fe2O3 in ash
Ash fusion temperatures Deformation (red.)
Coals Physically:
• Milling. Hardgrove Grindability Index (HGI) can provide a reasonable prediction
of mill power requirements, but the operator may have to use trial and error to
obtain the required coal fineness. Coals with a low Abrasion Index can usually
be relied upon to produce low levels of mill wear.

• Handling. Coarse coal handling capability is primarily determined by moisture

and fines content. Difficulties in pneumatic handling of milled coal primarily
depends on the size distribution of the product, which is influenced by HGI.

• Combustibility. Fast burnout is associated with high volatile coals.

• Char interaction with coke. The entry of unburnt coal char into the burden is
inevitable at high injection rates.

• Blast preheat and oxygen enrichment requirements. The cooling effect that coal
injection has on the raceway flame temperature can be compensated by
increased blast temperature and/or oxygen enrichment. The cooling effect is
greater for high volatile coals.

Blast Furnace Combustion’s Story :

• Thermochemical Effects. As injection rates increase to high levels a significant
amount of the fuel is consumed in the reduction of FeO. As the reduction by
hydrogen is less endothermic than the C-FeO solution loss reaction, there is a
decrease in energy requirements in the reduction zone.
• Kinetic Effects. The diffusivities of H2 and H2O are significantly higher than those
of CO and CO2. Higher diffusivities will increase the reduction rate, particularly at
lower temperatures.

The blending of the coals to be injected enables better control of coal quality and allows
the selection of a blend with suitable carbon for good replacement ratio and volatile
content for combustion. The combustion performance of a coal blend is more complex
than that of a single coal because it is not only dependent on the combustion
performance of the component coals but also on the interaction between these coals.

Blending for the Right Coal Parameters

Coal blending in Power Generation & in Steel Sector is mainly to reduce the cost of generation
and increase the availability of coal. The low-grade coals are mixed with better grade coal
without deterioration in thermal performance of the boiler, thus reducing the cost of generation.
This term ’Coal Blending‘ will be a recurring theme in this paper. It is because of Blend we are
able to manipulate the Coal Quality before firing for achieving the optimal results

During the Coal combustion, understanding the physical conditions and coal properties under
particles heating, devolatalisation, ignition and combustion of the volatile matter, as well as
ignition and combustion of the char is important. It is also equally important to know the phase
changes in mineral matter and other in-organics present in Coal. The combustion efficiency and
carbon loss has to be addressed during Coal Blending thus changing the quality of Coal.
Equally important are the aspects of Slagging, Fouling, and emission characteristics viz. NOx,
Sox, and particulates (the Compulsions of Environmental norms).

Complex Coal Combustion process and the number of variables involved (still are the process
of full understanding), extrapolation of small scale results to a full scale power plant are a good
but a bit risky. Operational experience with wider Plant configurations with a variety of Coal
feedstock qualities is essential for determining the practical significance of results from bench –
and pilot – scale tests. Many times published research on the behavior of the Coal Qualities and
coal blends utilized in tests might differ from the on field actual performance.

Combustion Process optimization: Dynamic coal blending

It is the Intelligent Optimization of Coal Burning to Meet Demanding Power Loads, Emission
Requirements, and Cost Objectives:

• Helps improve the bottom line

• Advanced IT match coal quality to
varying plant operating & market
conditions in real time.
• The results: lower fuel costs
• Most plants still use a fixed coal blend
tailored for design of full-load of boiler
• Fixed Blend may be of higher quality
than needed during part-load operation ,
or lower than Peaking Load. Thus Changing Quality by Dynamic Blending is a radical
departure from the fixed-blend approach , in real time IT assisted, to control single
largest Expense – the Variable Cost due to Fuel.
• Payback for dynamic Blending system is - 10-18 Months ( Rs. Crs. 5 to 15 Capital Cost)
• What constitutes the right coal blend for each set of conditions requires knowledge of
more than just fuel price.
• To be truly useful, dynamic blending needs
to consider all costs related to the use of a
particular coal blend-such as the impact on
air emissions ( no Tax in India Yet), ash
handling, and heat rate
• Dynamic blending can be used profitably at
a plant if some or all of the following criteria
• The plant runs at lower loads at night and
• Load projections for the coming four to 24 hours are available as a rough guideline.
• Two or more coals of different quality and price are used or can be purchased at the
power plant.
• A relationship between load and coal quality is established.
• There are specific, quality-related operational or derate issues that can be mitigated by
appropriate blend control.
• The fuel yard is well instrumented, with enough weigh scales, level gauges, and position
indicators available to track the movement of all coal in the yard. On-line coal analyzers
generally are not required, but can be used if available.

Challenge of Handling of Dynamic Blending:

• The quality of the coal entering the

yard must be known.
• -- All movement of coal must be
recorded and tracked.
• -- Data from standard coal yard
measurements-weigh scales and
gate positions--must be available in
electronic format
• Most important, the complex
nonlinear flow of coal in the silos

must be accurately modeled.

• Accurate silo modeling
• Acurate Coal Flow modeled, you
can use the quality data for the
coals as they are loaded into the
mill silos to calculate the output
quality sequence.

Thus it is the Right Quality coal at the right


Tracing the Traces

The presence of trace elements in Coal referred above is receiving increased attention
throughout the world during the last few years, with elements such as mercury of particular
concern. One way to reduce trace element emissions is cleaning the coal prior to combustion.
The use of cleaner coals – those with lower ash and Sulfur content – can have the added
advantage of substantially reducing operating costs. Again, however, some effects may be
detrimental (ash deposition may be exacerbated, and the effects on corrosion and precipitator
performance are uncertain), which makes testing vital.

Pulverising to hit Optimisation

Process of Pulverized coal injection (PCI) feeding as an auxiliary Fuel in blast furnace has
helped Iron & Steel Manufacturers to replace high cost Coking Coal to reduce operating costs in
the production of pig iron and then ultimately crude steel.

The Coal Quality and the Coal Combustion Process for a specific production has a message to
the Suppliers and users who are required to develop the coal resource in a considerably cleaner
and more efficient manner than has been the case to date.

In the West, early adopters of the PCI technology used higher volatile, softer sub-bituminous
coals. In China, it was the opposite. Early Chinese adopters began with very low volatile, hard
anthracite. The scorecard was to find the highest possible level of coke replacement. The major
incentive is cost savings. A coal grinding and injection system requires much less capital cost
compared to a coke oven installation.

Cleaning the Coal

Clean Coal Technology (CCT) requires that all aspects be considered with respect to
improvements in the extraction, production, beneficiation, utilization and environmental
management of coal and its carbon-based derivatives

Bag Full Solutions for varying Emissions

Differences in coal type and pollution control devices make it necessary to develop
customized solutions for each utility, which will be most effective and economical for
each configuration. In addition, the complicated chemistry and multiple mechanisms
governing mercury speciation in coal-fired boilers makes it necessary to investigate Hg
emission control technologies at conditions relevant to full-scale units.

Coal blending enhances the capture of mercury by flyash on combining necessary

catalytic material (UBC) with sorbent material (Calcium).

There are vast differences among power plants, including coal type, particulate control
equipment, wet and dry scrubbing technologies, and boiler efficiencies. The
mechanisms governing mercury speciation are highly dependent on the specific
configuration of each power plant. Therefore, a variety of solutions are needed to
provide Hg-mitigation solutions to the entire fleet of coal-fired power plants. Solutions
covering coal blending, ash conditioning, designer sorbents, oxidizing agents, catalysts,
and multi-pollutant controls.

An Environmentally Challenging Indian Coal

Indian coal is some of the dirtiest in the world in terms of high Ash coupled with the lack
of infrastructure to clean it early in the process, Creates a huge environmental risk for
India, already one of the countries poised to be hit hardest by climate change. Coal is
the most polluting fuel in terms of greenhouse gases and already accounts for 65
percent of India’s CO2 emissions. But there are queues in the corridors of Min. of Coal
& Power for its allocation because of Costs and lack of Port infrastructure. The burning
of coal releases respirable particles, noxious gases, toxic trace elements, and
radioactive particles into the atmosphere. Additional environmental degradation comes
from mining, sometimes done in forests, and coal fires (of which India already has the
most concentrated amount of any country). So far, cancer, bone deformation, black
lung, sterilization, and kidney diseases have all been attributed to the burning of coal.
Already an entire village, Jharia in Jharkhand state, had to be relocated because of the
deleterious effects of an underground coal fire that has been burning for decades.

In addition to harmful carbon dioxide emissions, burning coal produces one of the most
oft-neglected pollutants: black carbon. Black carbon is responsible for one-fifth of
observed global warming. Black carbon stays in the atmosphere for only a matter of
weeks, but creates more local warming problems than emissions from most other fuels.
Tackling black carbon would be an expedient and effective way to raise the quality of
life in India. It would also make for a conciliatory gesture toward the international

The deployment of all Energy Generating technologies ( High targets set for 12th
& 13th Plan) invariably is going to lead to some degree of environmental impact.

The nature of the impact is dependent on the specific generation technology used and
may include:

• Concerns over land and water resource use

• Pollutant emissions
• Waste generation
• Public health and safety concerns

The use of coal for power generation is not exempt from these impacts and has been
associated with a number of environmental challenges, primarily associated with air.

Thus the Challenge to the Technologists is to mitigate these negatives through what
ever Quality of Coal we get.

The existing body of knowledge on the characterization to use all properties to predict
boiler performance changes when using blends precipitation); nitrogen (NOx prediction).
It is recommended that a model be created (changes in deportment); ash fusibility
(deposition and ash character); Sulphur, ash (increased carbon in ash and ash
deposition caused by NOx control); trace elements particle size and mineral
composition (flow properties); nitrogen and ash fusibility performance and they also
have a major impact on plant operations’: moisture, ‘appropriate for future research
effort, as properties are not readily related to plant propensity). In addition, the following
areas were indicated, for blends, as volatile matter and crossing point temperature (for
indicating spontaneous heating index, crucible swelling number, ash fusibility
temperatures, coal flow properties, predicting blend performance in a power station
including Hardgrove grindability properties
Clean Coal—Worthy investment or pie in the sky?:

It would be unrealistic to envision a future without India burning coal. Indeed, India’s
coal consumption is set to rise even if sources of energy are diversified. And with the
Qualities available, Clean-coal technologies, such as Carbon Capture and
Sequestration (CCS), are appealing to governments and lawmakers because they
require less adaptation than other mitigating routes. CCS is a two-step process. First,
the carbon dioxide is captured as it enters the atmosphere, and then it is pumped
underground for safe storage. While the latter part of the process has been
demonstrated, the “capturing” part is underdeveloped and expensive.

Clean-coal technologies will take many more years and billions of dollars to develop.
There is not nearly enough private investment in CCS technology. At present, it is
overpriced (about $30 per ton of CSS CO2). R&D costs are high, and investors seem
more interested in shorter-term, renewable technologies. The Edison Electric Institute
estimates that commercial deployment will require 25 more years of research and cost
at least $20 billion. No large-scale power plant in the world is currently using CCS.

Developing clean-coal technologies therefore should not be seen as an immediate and

reliable solution. However, it is a sector worth investment and research. Andhra
Pradesh has signed on with state-owned Bharat Heavy Electricals to build a 125-
megawatt clean-coal plant. Perhaps once the long-term results are in, clean coal will
have been worth the wait.

World Coal Institute remains

convinced of the merits of covering
coal projects and CCS projects in the
World Bank Grant portfolio.
Quality Based Technology

Technology & Processes are thus

selected based on what we have or
what we can acquire.

The task of the Coal Technologists is not confined to the Mines or the Labs. but how to get best
of what we have.

Key Result Areas (KRA)

The Technologists, Process Developers and the Business Developers have KRAs alike –to ad
value to the bottom line & top line lift , adding net worth to the Company’s balance sheet

A Comprehensive outlook to Coal is required in terms of

• Quality Characteristics
• Coal Quality Analysis
• Quality Management at Mine site
• Fundamentals of Coal Combustion
• Power Plant Coal Processes and Performance Measures
• Impact of Coal Quality on Plant Performances
• Coal use in Cement Plant
• Delivering Quality Coal - Mine to End User
• The Coal Chain
• Stockpile Management
• Coal Handleability
• Deterioration of Properties
• Superintending Shipment Quality
• Activity: Calculate the Optimum Blend – practical
• Coal Preparation - Making Quality Coal
• Coal Beneficiation
• Coal Attributes Affected & Size Distribution
• Prediction Characteristics
• Combustion Processes & Performance Prediction
• Impact on Power Plant Processes
• Impact of Quality on Efficiency
• Slagging and Fouling Indices
• Performance Benchmarking
• A huge loss for long distance consumers to transport waste leading to source Coal from
alternate sources irrespective of the Quality.
• Affects the power plant equipment enhancing maintenance cost.
• For Imported Coal – the Strategic participation in Port Development

Logistic Constraints
• Coal reserves are generally localized. • Transportation of coal is an issue.
• Judicious rationalization of coal supply not done due to various political and other

Comprehensive studies lead to

Coal value Optimization - maximizing our Coal Assets & Ensuring the effectiveness
of measures aimed at stabilization; as well as minimize the costs of effective climate
- mitigation action.


Although much is known about Coal quality as well as Blending, much also remains to
be learned. To this end, research on coal quality and Blending is being conducted in
both the public and private sectors. Current studies encompass all aspects of the origin,
burial history, and composition of coal in order to understand the various factors
involved in determining coal quality, such as how and where to find the most
appropriate coal for a specific use and how to clean coal to make its use more
environmentally and industrially acceptable.

In the past, the only consideration given to coal quality was whether coal lumps held
together during shipping, burned easily to produce a hot fire, and did not produce too
much ash. Today, however, concerns about human health, the environment, energy
demands, and the supply of certain raw materials have broadened our concept of coal
quality and have increased our need to know much more about the origins, nature, and
effects of coal quality and blending. Fortunately, recent advances in analytical
capabilities have made the task of understanding the intricacies of coal quality &
Blending much easier to achieve.
In the near-term, the most immediate advancements related to coal-quality research
appear to be improvements in the efficiency of coal use (including more efficient
production of synthetic fuels) and the development of methods to best understand, and
thus control, the less desirable components in coal that have the potential to contribute
to environmental degradation and adverse health effects. In the longer term, the
recovery of useful substances from coal (such as iron, silver, sulfur, and zinc, as well as
organic chemicals, gypsum, and ash) should be an exciting area for research related to
Coal quality.

An extensive evaluation of Coal quality must be central to coal use. Whatever coal is
used for-whether for the direct production of energy, chemicals, synthetic fuels, or the
recovery of useful minerals-and whatever problems and solutions accompany that use
depend on the quality of the coal. Additional, sophisticated, multidisciplinary research on
coal quality is required for the future. The results will help make it possible for society to
continue to benefit from the Coal as a resource.

IT has come as a big boon Coal Blending to stimulate various combinations of Coals

Additionally, it is recommended to have:

„ The Coal Consumers of India to encourage barter of Coal from different mines to win win
solution for all.
„ Independent coal regulator – in order to provide level playing field with in India
„ Coal Price- Price de-regulation has been done in phase manner. But still commercial
mining is done by state-owned companies , there is indirect govt. control
„ Private sector participation – only allowed for captive coal mining. Currently, govt.
considering to allow captive mine owner to sell 10% of their Production outside.
„ Dedicated Railway Freight Corridor
„ Inland Water Transport

About the Author: BETech. & MBA (Fin), PGDPM & PGDMM from Delhi University. Export
Mgmt. from Oxford. Over 4 decades of Experience in diversified sectors covering Energy
including Solar & other Renewable Energy, (Ex. BHEL), Water Sector,Agriculture, Infrastructure.
Widely travelled abroad & in India including Foreign Postings.
National Jt Secretary of IIPE Contact : ; 98107-08707
Written Papers on diversified subjects-
Energy Sector – Conventional, Renewable,
Zero Breakdown Maintenance in Steel Sector. Waste Management in Steel Plants
Iron Ore Beneficiation; Waste Management; Irrigation Sector; Water Sector
Maintenance Practices in Global Economic Melt down etc. etc.
Disclaimer – While every effort has been to taken to ensure that the published information is authentic & reliable; and has been used by the
author very successfully, the author or the company undertake no liability for any damage, accidents, financial loss or expense arising from the
contents of this paper or a different behaviour of the Coal Quality on blending so described.