Fine Coal Dewatering Using Hyperbaric Centrifugation

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Virginia Tech


The solid-solid separation processes employed by modern coal preparation plants require large amounts of process water that must be removed from the surfaces of particles using mechanical dewatering equipment. Unfortunately, the existing processes that are used to dewater fine particles are inefficient in terms of moisture reduction and/or solids recovery. Many coal preparation plants are forced to discard fine coal particles because of the inability of existing technologies to reduce the moisture content of this product to an acceptable level. In light of this problem, a new ultrafine dewatering process called hyperbaric filter centrifugation (HFC) has been developed. This novel method combines centrifugation and pressure filtration within a single process to substantially reduce moistures over what can be achieved using conventional dewatering systems.

In the current study, steady-state and dynamic dewatering models were developed in order to be able to simulate the behavior of the HFC technology. The steady-state model, which was based on grain-size properties, used empirical expressions to predict product moistures. On the other hand, the dynamic model was based on fundamental theories of filtration and centrifugation. Although the dynamic model provided a better understanding of the working principles of the process, the steady-state grain model produced more accurate equilibrium moisture predictions. Therefore, the steady-state model was used to further investigate the effects of several parameters on cake moistures. As such, the steady-state model was useful for scale up and design purposes.

The steady-state dewatering model was also used to perform an economical analysis of potential applications of the HFC technology. The model was used to investigate a variety of new circuit designs that have the potential to be commercially applied in the coal industry. The results clearly showed that this new technology would allow coal companies to process difficult-to-dewater ultrafines using the HFC process, while coarser solids would be more appropriately dewatered using conventional technologies such as vacuum filters or screenbowl centrifuges. This "split dewatering" concept would provide substantially higher profitability due to lower moistures and higher recoveries of ultrafine solids than could be achieved using a single dewatering process.

Laboratory- and pilot-scale versions of this technology has been constructed and tested at the facilities of Mining & Minerals Engineering Department of Virginia Tech. Results of this testing program showed that 30-50% lower moisture values than the ones obtained using conventional mechanical dewatering processes could be achieved with the HFC technology. Based on these promising results, a pilot-scale prototype unit, which was tested successfully at several commercial U.S. coal plants, was also constructed by Decanter Machine, Inc. Finally, the process of developing of this novel technology was successfully completed with the sale of the first full-scale commercial unit by Decanter Machine, Inc. to a major U.S. coal producer.



Filtration, Hyperbaric, Centrifugation, Dewatering