A study of the influence of thermal drying on physical coal properties
Badenhorst, Mathys Johannes Gerhardus
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One of the major issues facing the coal industry today is the decline in economically recoverable reserves, especially in the Witbank 1 Mpumalanga region of South Africa. This necessitates a critical review of alternate coal sources. One such source was identified as previously discarded and currently arising coal fines. It is well known that great value lies within these fines, but that the high moisture content associated with fine coal leads to thermal inefficiencies, handling problems and increased transport cost. This study will investigate thermal drying as a feasible solution to effectively remove this moisture. During thermal drying coal is fed into a high temperature environment; this can influence the physical and mechanical properties of the coal. The effects include swelling, caking, cracking, loss of water, loss of volatiles, and many more. These effects are investigated by means of thennogravimetric analysis, scanning electron microscopy with a heating stage, proximate analysis and mercury intrusion. Coal samples with an average particle size of 500 um were selected for this study. It was found that: The rate of moisture loss up to temperatures between 150 and 200°C is at a maximum where after the rate declines up to temperatures between 350 and 450°C when primary devolatilisation initiates. No visual changes in the coal are observed up to temperatures between 350 and 450°C. A limited amount of volatiles evolve at a constant rate up to 250°C; this is not significant enough to decrease the calorific value of the coal. Porosity changes in the coal are observed from temperatures as low as 250°C. Thermal drying was found to be a feasible alternative to currently employed drying methods with 150°C selected as the optimal drying temperature. A thermal drying plant is proposed with recommendations for future work needed to realise such a plant.
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