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Anthracite (Greek Ανθρακίτης, literally "a type of coal", from Anthrax [Άνθραξ],

coal) is a hard, compact variety of mineral coal that has a high lustre. It has the
highest carbon count and contains the fewest impurities of all coals, despite its
lower calorific content.

Anthracite is the highest of the metamorphic rank, in which the carbon content is
between 92% and 98%.[1] The term is applied to those varieties of coal which do
not give off tarry or other hydrocarbon vapours when heated below their point of
ignition. Anthracite ignites with difficulty and burns with a short, blue, and
smokeless flame.

Other terms which refer to anthracite are blue coal, hard coal, stone coal (not to be
confused with the German Steinkohle or Dutch steenkool which are broader terms
meaning all varieties of coal of a stonelike hardness and appearance, like
bituminous and often anthracite as well, as opposed to Lignite, which is softer),
blind coal (in Scotland), Kilkenny coal (in Ireland), crow coal (or craw coal from its
shiny black appearance), and black diamond ("Blue Coal" is the term for a once-
popular, specific, trademarked brand of anthracite, mined by the Glen Alden Coal
Company in Pennsylvania, and sprayed with a blue dye at the mine before shipping
to its Northeastern U.S.A. markets to distinguish it from its competitors). The
imperfect anthracite of north Devon and north Cornwall (around Bude) in England,
which is used as a pigment, is known as culm. Culm is also the term used in
geological classification to distinguish the strata in which it is found and similar
strata in the Rhenish hill countries are known as the Culm Measures. In America,
culm is used as an equivalent for waste or slack in anthracite mining.

Anthracite is similar in appearance to the mineraloid jet and is sometimes used as a


jet imitation.

Anthracite differs from ordinary bituminous by its greater hardness, its higher
relative density of 1.3-1.4, and luster, which is often semi-metallic with a mildly
brown reflection. It contains a high percentage of fixed carbon and a low
percentage of volatile matter. It is also free from included soft or fibrous notches
and does not soil the fingers when rubbed. Anthracitization is the transformation of
bituminous into anthracite.

The moisture content of fresh-mined anthracite generally is less than 15 percent.


The heat content of anthracite ranges from 22 to 28 million Btu per short ton (26 to
33 MJ/kg) on a moist, mineral-matter-free basis. The heat content of anthracite coal
consumed in the United States averages 25 million Btu/ton (29 MJ/kg), on the as-
received basis (i.e., containing both inherent moisture and mineral matter). Note:
Since the 1980s, anthracite refuse or mine waste has been used for steam electric
power generation.
Anthracite may be considered to be a transition stage between ordinary bituminous
and graphite, produced by the more or less complete elimination of the volatile
constituents of the former, and it is found most abundantly in areas that have been
subjected to considerable earth-movements, such as the flanks of great mountain
ranges. Anthracite is a product of metamorphism and is associated with
metamorphic rocks, just as bituminous is associated with sedimentary rocks. For
example, the compressed layers of anthracite that are deep mined in the folded
(metamorphic) Appalachian Mountains of the Coal Region of northeastern
Pennsylvania are extensions of the layers of bituminous coal that are strip mined on
the (sedimentary) Allegheny Plateau of Kentucky and West Virginia, and Western
Pennsylvania. In the same way the anthracite region of South Wales is confined to
the contorted portion west of Swansea and Llanelli, the central and eastern portions
producing steam coal, coking coal and domestic house coals.

Structurally it shows some alteration by the development of secondary divisional


planes and fissures so that the original stratification lines are not always easily
seen. The thermal conductivity is also higher, a lump of anthracite feeling
perceptibly colder when held in the warm hand than a similar lump of bituminous at
the same temperature. The chemical composition of some typical anthracites is
given in the article coal.

Economic value
In southwest Wales, anthracite was burned as a domestic fuel from the medieval
period or earlier.[2]

In the United States, anthracite coal history began in 1790 in Pottsville,


Pennsylvania, with the discovery of coal made by the hunter Necho Allen in what is
now known as the Coal Region. Legend has it that Allen fell asleep at the base of
Broad Mountain and woke to the sight of a large fire because his campfire had
ignited an outcropping of anthracite coal. By 1795, an anthracite-fired iron furnace
had been built on the Schuylkill River.

Anthracite was first experimentally burned as a residential heating fuel in the USA
on 11 February 1808, by Judge Jesse Fell in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, on an open
grate in a fireplace. Anthracite differs from wood in that it needs a draft from the
bottom, and Judge Fell proved with his grate design that it was a viable heating fuel.

In the spring of 1808, John and Abijah Smith shipped the first commercially-mined
load of anthracite down the Susquehanna River from Plymouth, Pennsylvania,
marking the birth of commercial anthracite mining in the United States. From that
first mine, production rose to an all-time high of over 100 million tons in 1917.

From the late 1800s until the 1950s, anthracite was the most popular fuel for
heating homes and other buildings in the northern United States, until it was
supplanted first by oil burning systems and more recently by natural gas systems as
well. Many large public buildings, like schools, were heated with anthracite-burning
furnaces through the 1980s.

Current anthracite production averages around 5 million tons per year.

The principal use of anthracite today is for a domestic fuel in either hand-fired
stoves or automatic stoker furnaces. It delivers high energy per its weight and burns
cleanly with little soot, making it ideal for this purpose. Its high value makes it
prohibitively expensive for power plant use. Other uses include the fine particles
used as filter media, and as an ingredient in charcoal briquettes.

Anthracite is processed into different sizes by what is commonly referred to as a


breaker (see coal). The large coal is raised from the mine and passed through
breakers with toothed rolls to reduce the lumps to smaller pieces. The smaller
pieces are separated into different sizes by a system of graduated sieves, placed in
descending order. Sizing is necessary for different types of stoves and furnaces.

During the American Civil War, Confederate blockade runners burned anthracite as
fuel for their boilers to avoid giving away their position to the blockaders.[citation
needed]

In the early 20th century United States, the Lackawanna Railroad started using only
the more expensive anthracite coal in their passenger locomotives, dubbed
themselves "The Road of Anthracite," and advertised widely that travelers on their
line could make railway journeys without getting their clothing stained with soot.
The advertisements featured a white-clad woman named Phoebe Snow and poems
containing lines like "My gown stays white / From morn till night / Upon the road of
Anthracite". Similarly, the Great Western Railway in the UK was able to use its
access to anthracite (it dominated the anthracite region) to earn a reputation for
efficiency and cleanliness unmatched by other UK companies.

Formerly, anthracite was largely used, both in America and South Wales, as blast-
furnace fuel for iron smelting, but for this purpose it has been largely superseded by
coke in the former country and entirely in the latter. An important application has,
however, been developed in the extended use of internal combustion motors driven
by the so-called "mixed", "poor", "semi-water" or "Dowson gas" produced by the
gasification of anthracite with air and a small proportion of steam. This is probably
the most economical method of obtaining power known; with an engine as small as
15 horse-power the expenditure of fuel is at the rate of only 1 lb. per horse-power
hour, and with larger engines it is proportionately less. Large quantities of
anthracite for power purposes were formerly exported from South Wales to France,
Switzerland and parts of Germany. Commercial mining has now ceased.
In June 2008, anthracite was US$150/short ton wholesale.[3]

Anthracite coal mining today


Anthracite coal mining in Eastern Pennsylvania continues in the early 21st Century
and contributes up to 1% of the Pennsylvania Gross State Product. Over 2,000
people were making their living mining anthracite coal as of 1995. Most of the
mining currently involves reclaiming coal from slag heaps (waste piles from past
coal mining) next to closed mines. Some underground anthracite coal mining is also
taking place up to this day. As petroleum and natural gas grow more expensive,
anthracite coal is growing more important as an energy source for an energy-
hungry country.

Classifications
The common American classification is as follows:[citation needed]

Lump, steamboat, egg and stove coals, the latter in two or three sizes, all three
being above 1-1/2 in. size on round-hole screens.
Classification Minimum Size (inches) Maximum Size (inches)

Chestnut 7/8 1 1/2


Pea 9/16 7/8
Buckwheat 3/8 9/16
Rice 3/16 3/8
Barley 3/32 3/16

The primary sizes used in the United States for domestic heating are Chestnut, Pea,
Buckwheat and Rice, with Chestnut and Rice being the most popular. Chestnut and
Pea are used in hand fired furnaces while the smaller Rice and Buckwheat are used
in automatic stoker furnaces. Rice is currently the most sought after size due to the
ease of use and popularity of that type of furnace.

In South Wales a less elaborate classification is adopted, but great care is exercised
in hand-picking and cleaning the coal from included particles of pyrites in the higher
qualities known as best malting coals, which are used for kiln-drying malt and hops.

Anthracite dust can be made into briquettes and is sold in the United Kingdom
under trade names such as Phurnacite, Ancit and Taybrite.