Assessment of coal liquefaction behavior through product characterization with hyphenated chromatographic/spectroscopic methods

TR Number



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University


The understanding of liquefaction behaviors, related to a coal's properties and a recycle solvent's composition, is essential for the development of an efficient direct liquefaction process. In this dissertation, a study of the liquefaction behaviors of an Eastern us bituminous and four Western US subbituminous coals is presented. The experimental approach has been to examine their behaviors under various reaction conditions with in-house microautoclave reactor and Kerr McGee pilot plant liquefaction runs. In-house runs involved surveys of coal types and process solvent compositions with variations in reaction times, temperatures and atmospheres. Runs performed at Kerr McGee examined the use of tetrahydroquinoline (TBQ) as a process solvent with a Wyoming coal.

Liquefaction activities were assessed through determinations of coal conversion to both solvent-soluble products and distillate yields. Per the in-house liquefaction studies, a novel microautoclave reactor design and product recovery methods were developed, evaluated and employed. The reaction chemistries of !n !!S!! metal species and basic nitrogen heterocycles were investigated specifically. Changes in trace element concentrations were ascertained by Inductively Coupled Plasma Atomic Emission Spectrometry (ICP-AES) and Size Exclusion Chromatography/ICP-AES (SEC/ICP-AES). Pates of basic nitrogen components in distillate and solvent-soluble residuum products were examined by nitrogen mass balance determinations, Gas Chromatography/Pourier Transform Infrared Spectrometry (GC/PTIR) and Gas Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry (GC/MS).

Conversions to soluble products demonstrated the expected dependencies of liquefaction on coal rank, elemental composition and petrography. The western subbituminous coals showed extreme sensitivity to drying and solvent-soaking pretreatments. Metal content analyses revealed that metals exist as complexed species in the liquefaction process. Higher conversions to toluene-soluble materials were obtained with THQ in contrast to other H-donor solvents. Adduction of THQ was significant in the non-distillate product stream, however.

The direct coupling of Reversed Phase HPLC separations with PTIR (RP-HPLC/PTIR) detection through on-line, post-column extraction was developed. Though intended for application to coal-liquefied product (CLP) analysis, this system was evaluated rigorously for both chromatographic and spectral performance.

Throughout this investigation, the overall utility of these hyphenated methods for CLP analysis was explored. These methods demonstrated exceptional performance in providing a wealth of qualitative and quantitative information in a rapid manner.