Fine Coal Dewatering
Fine coal constitutes a relatively small portion of a product stream in a coal cleaning plant. However, its processing cost is approximately three times higher than the cost of processing coarse coal. Therefore, many coal companies chose to discard the fines to refuse ponds, causing a loss of profit and creating environmental concerns. This problem can be solved by developing more efficient fine coal dewatering processes, since bulk of the cost associated with processing fine coal is due to dewatering. For this reason, Virginia Tech has developed new chemicals that can increase the efficiency of mechanically dewatering coal fines.
To determine the performance of the novel reagents on fine coal dewatering, laboratory vacuum filtration and centrifugation tests were conducted. The utilization of the novel dewatering aids in the dewatering systems decreased the final moisture contents of the filter cakes to sufficiently low values. There was approximately 50% reduction in the cake moisture of many coal samples with the usage of the novel dewatering aids. The tests were performed on various coal samples from different coal preparation plants. This gave the advantage of testing the novel dewatering aids at many different conditions since each sample had its own characteristics.
The vacuum filtration tests were extensively used to compare the efficiency of each novel reagent in dewatering. The best performing dewatering aids were determined and they were further utilized to analyze the effects of operational variables, such as; drying cycle time, cake thickness, vacuum pressure level and slurry temperature on dewatering. A statistical analysis was also performed to observe the effect of each factor quantitatively. The analyses were very useful in terms of determining the synergistic effects of these factors in dewatering of fine coal.
The centrifuge tests were conducted to examine the efficiency of the novel reagents in a different dewatering application. The experimental results showed a significant improvement in centrifuge dewatering with the usage of proper coal sample. The moisture contents of fairly thick cakes decreased down to 5-10%. This outcome was very satisfactory since most of the dewatering aids commonly used in the coal industry were observed to increase the final cake moisture in centrifuge dewatering instead of decreasing it.
Finally, surface chemistry analyses were performed on the coal samples and slurries to analyze the changes in the chemistry of the dewatering system in the presence of the novel dewatering aids. It was observed that there was a favorable improvement in the system chemistry, which was helpful in terms of decreasing the cake moisture content. These observations were also consistent with the results of the dewatering tests. The combined effect of the novel additives in decreasing the surface tension of the slurry and increasing the contact angle of the coal surface at the same time was concluded to be the reason for their significant performance as dewatering aids.