Pipe reactor gasification studies of a south african bituminous coal blend. Part 1 - Carbon and volatile matter behaviour as function of feed coal particle size reduction
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The Sasol-Lurgi fixed-bed dry-bottom (FBDB) MKIV gasifiers are proven to be robust as far as acceptable coal properties are concerned, in particular its ability to accommodate a range of particle size distributions (PSD) fractions. Over the years, the findings from a number of studies conducted at Sasol have played a key role in the optimization of the Sasol-Lurgi gasifiers as far as the limited amount of coal preparation by crushing and screening is concerned. The continued optimization efforts by Sasol over many years have led to a robust and reliable gasification technology for coal conversion, and more improvements are envisaged for the near future. In this study, gasification profiles inside real coal beds were investigated experimentally using a pilot scale combustor unit (pipe reactor), where the top size of the coal blend was systematically reduced from 75 mm, 53 mm and 37.5 mm. The pilot scale combustor has an inside diameter of 400 mm, is approximately 3 m long and the combustion rate is controlled by regulating the oxygen/nitrogen ratio of the gas feed. Ash is not removed continuously, so the combustion front moves upwards through the coal bed with time, resulting in a temperature gradient across the bed. The combustion process can be stopped at any point in time by removing all of the oxygen from the feed gas (i.e. quenching with nitrogen). The combustor was constructed so that it can be tilted onto its side and opened up like a coffin to allow sample taking and visual inspection of the combustion profile. In this case, equivalent sized slices were taken across the length of the reactor bed contents and the samples were analysed for PSD, proximate analysis, ultimate analysis, Fisher assay and coal char CO2 reactivity. This paper focuses on the coal property transformational behaviour (as characterized by the proximate analysis and Fischer tar results) through packed coal beds of different feed coal size distributions. The proximate analysis results showed clear reaction zone profiles to be occurring within the pipe reactor, i.e. drying, pyrolysis, reduction and combustion (ash bed) zones, in agreement with the SL-FBDB MKIV commercial-scale findings. It was found that a decrease in feed coal particle size resulted in better heat transfer across the particles with ensuing faster volatile matter and tar evolution.