The effect of mineral addition on the pyrolysis products derived from typical Highveld coal
Mineral matter affect various coal properties as well as the yield and composition of products released during thermal processes. This necessitates investigation of the effect of the inherent minerals on the products derived during pyrolysis, as pyrolysis forms the basis of most coal utilisation processes. A real challenge in this research has been quantifying the changes seen and attributing these effects to specific minerals. Thus far it has been deemed impossible to predict product yields based on the mineral composition of the parent coal. Limited research regarding these aspects has been done on South African coal and the characterisation of pyrolysis products in previous studies was usually limited to one product phase. A novel approach was followed in this study and the challenges stated were effectively addressed. A vitrinite-rich South African coal from the Highveld coal field, was prepared to an undersize of 75 μm and divided into two fractions. HCl/HF acid washing reduced the ash yield from 14.0 wt% d.b. to 2.0 wt% d.b. (proximate analysis). Pyrolysis was carried out with the North-West University (NWU) Fischer Assay setup at 520, 750 and 900°C under N2 atmosphere and atmospheric pressure. The effect of acid washing and the addition of minerals on the derived pyrolysis products were evaluated. Acid washing led to lower water and tar yields, whilst the gas yields increased, and the char yields were unaffected. The higher gas yield can be related to increased porosity after mineral removal as revealed by Brunauer-Emmett-Teller (BET) CO2 adsorption surface area analysis of the derived chars. Gas chromatography (GC) analyses of the derived pyrolysis gases indicated that the acid washed coal fraction (AW TWD) derived gas contained higher yields of H2, CH4, CO2, C2H4, C2H6, C3H4, C3H6 and C4s when compared to the gas derived from the raw coal fraction (TWD). The CO yield from the TWD coal was higher at all final pyrolysis temperatures. Differences in gas yields were related to increased tar cracking as well as lower hydrogen transfer and de-hydrogenation of the acid washed chars. Analyses of the tar fraction by means of simulated distillation (Simdis), gas chromatography mass spectrometry (GC-MS) –flame ionization detection (–FID) and size exclusion chromatography with ultraviolet (SEC-UV) analyses, indicated that the AW TWD derived tars were more aromatic in nature, containing more heavier boiling point components, which increased with increasing final pyrolysis temperature. The chars were characterised by proximate, ultimate, X-ray diffraction (XRD), X-ray fluorescence (XRF), diffuse reflectance infrared Fourier-transform (DRIFT) and BET CO2 analyses. Addition of either 5 wt% calcite, dolomite, kaolinite, pyrite or quartz to the acid washed fraction (AW TWD) was done in order to determine the effect of these minerals on the pyrolysis products. These minerals were identified as the most prominent mineral phases in the Highveld coal used in this study, by XRD and quantitative evaluation of minerals by scanning electron microscopy (QEMSCAN) analyses. It was found that mineral activity decreased in the order alcite/dolomite>pyrite>kaolinite>>>quartz. Calcite and dolomite addition led to a decrease in tar yield, whilst the gas yields were increased. Markedly, increased water yields were also observed with the addition of calcite, dolomite and pyrite. Kaolinite addition led to increased tar, char and gas yields at 520°C, whilst the tar yield decreased at 750°C. Pyrite addition led to decreased tar and gas yields. Quartz addition had no noteworthy effect on pyrolysis yields and composition, except for a decrease in char yield at all final pyrolysis temperatures and an increased gas yield at 520°C. Regarding the composition of the pyrolysis products, the various minerals had adverse effects. Calcite and dolomite affected the composition of the gas, tar and char phases most significantly, showing definite catalytic activity. Tar producers should take note as presence of these minerals in the coal feedstock could have a significant effect on the tar yield and composition. Kaolinite and pyrite showed some catalytic activity under specific conditions. Model coal-mineral mixtures confirmed synergism between coal-mineral and mineral-mineral interactions. Although some correlation between the pyrolysis products derived from the model coal-mineral mixtures and that of TWD coal was observed, it was not possible to entirely mimic the behaviour of the coal prior to acid washing. Linear regression models were developed to predict the gas, tar and char yields (d.m.m.f.) with mineral composition and pyrolysis temperature as variables, resulting in R2 coefficients of 0.837, 0.785 and 0.846, respectively. Models for the prediction of H2, CO, CO2 and CH4 yields with mineral composition and pyrolysis temperature as variables resulting in R2 coefficients of 0.917, 0.702, 0.869 and 0.978, respectively. These models will serve as foundation for future work, and prove that it is feasible to develop models to predict pyrolysis yields based on mineral composition. Extending the study to coals of different rank can make the models universally applicable and deliver a valuable contribution in industry.
- Engineering