Processing of Low Rank Coal and Ultrafine Particle Processing by Hydrophobic-Hydrophilic Separation (HHS)


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Virginia Tech


This thesis pertains to the processing of ultra-fine mineral particles and low rank coal using the hydrophobic--hydrophilic separation (HHS) method. Several explorative experimental tests have been carried out to study the effect of the various physical and chemical parameters on the HHS process.

In this study, the HHS process has been employed to upgrade a chalcopyrite ore. A systematic experimental study on the effects of various physical and chemical parameters such as particle size, reagent dosage and reaction time on the separation efficiencies have been performed. For this, a copper rougher concentrate (assaying 15.9 %Cu) was wet ground and treated with a reagent to selectively hydrophobize the copper-bearing mineral (chalcopyrite), leaving the siliceous gangue minerals hydrophilic. The slurry was subjected to a high-shear agitation to selectively agglomerate the chalcopyrite and to leave the siliceous gangue dispersed in aqueous phase. The agglomerates were then separated from dispersed gangue minerals by screening and the agglomerates dispersed in a hydrophobic liquid (n-pentane) to liberate the water trapped in the agglomerates. The chalcopyrite dispersed in the hydrophobic liquid was separated from the medium to obtain a concentrate substantially free of gangue minerals and moisture. The copper recoveries were substantially higher than those obtained by flotation. The HHS process was also tested on ultrafine mono-sized silica beads. The results were superior to those obtained by flotation, particularly with ultrafine particles.

The HHS process has also been tested successfully for upgrading subbituminous coals. Low-rank coals are not as hydrophobic as high-rank coals such as bituminous and anthracite coals. In the present work, a low-rank coal from Wyoming was hydrophobized with appropriate reagents and subjected to the HHS in a similar manner as described for processing copper. The results showed that the HHS process reduced the moisture substantially and increased the heating value up to 50% without heating the coal. Laboratory-scale tests conducted under different conditions, e.g., particle size, reagent type, reaction time, and pretreatments, showed promising results. Implementation for the HHS process for upgrading low-rank coals should help reduce CO2 emissions by improving combustion efficiencies.



Low Rank Coal, Acid washing, Esterification, Hydrophobic -- Hydrophilic Separation, Ultrafine Chalcopyrite, Ultrafine Silica, Fl, Oil agglomeration