Characterizing Trace Element Associations in the Pittsburgh No. 8, Illinois No. 6 and Coalburg Coal Seams
Conaway, Shawn Michael
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Coal preparation is widely regarded as a cost effective method for reducing the amounts of potentially hazardous air pollutant precursors (HAPPs) that occur as trace elements in the run-of-mine coals. Unfortunately, many existing coal preparation plants are inefficient in removing trace elements because of poor circuit design and inadequate liberation of coal and mineral matter. These problems are often difficult to correct in the absence of characterization data regarding the mineralogical association and washability of trace elements in run-of-mine coals. Therefore, the first step in removing the trace elements through coal preparation is to characterize the modes of association for trace elements in a coal seam. The purpose of this project was to link the occurrence of specific trace elements to the mineralogy and washability characteristics of different eastern U.S. coal seams. Detailed characterization studies were carried out using scanning electron microscopy (SEM) coupled with automated image analysis (AIA) to establish the association between different trace elements and the various components contained in coal. The first step in this analysis required the preparation of 11 different density fractions from a run-of-mine sample of 65 x 100 mesh Pittsburgh No. 8 coal. The samples were then examined using the scanning electron microscope (SEM) to establish the individual mineral constituents contained within each gravity fraction. For comparison, each gravity fraction was also carefully analyzed for trace element content by atomic adsorption spectroscopy (AA). The contribution of various mineral components to the trace element concentrations was determined in the present work using statistical procedures, i.e., individual linear regression and multiple linear regression. After completing the SEM analyses, washability (float-sink) tests were performed on three different coal seams. In this work, several size fractions from each of three different run-of-mine coals were subjected to float-sink testing and release analysis. Because of the overwhelming amount of data, statistical analyses were conducted to show the key relationships identified by this work. The data collected from this study show that trace elements are primarily associated with the mineral matter present in run-of-mine coal. The washability work also shows that the trace elements are concentrated in the heavier specific gravity classes. The characterization work shows that majority of the trace elements are associated with the ash-forming mineral matter and pyrite. The only element found to have a strong association with organic matter was beryllium. The information obtained from this work suggests that a properly designed coal preparation plant can remove substantial amounts of trace elements prior to coal combustion.
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