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CHAPTER FIVE
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in coal (dated to about 200 AD) has been found at the inland port of Heronbridge, near Chester, and in the Fenlands of East Anglia, where coal from the Midlands was transported for use in drying grain (Salway, 2001) Coal cinders have been found in the hearths of villas and military forts, particularly in Northumberland, dated to around 400 AD In the west of England contemporary writers described the wonder of a permanent brazier of coal on the altar of Minerva at Aquae Sulis (modern day Bath) although in fact easily-accessible surface coal from what is now the Somerset coalfield was in common use in quite lowly dwellings locally (Forbes, 1966) However, there is no evidence that coal was of significant importance in Britain before 1000 AD Mineral coal came to be referred to as sea coal because it came to many places in eastern England, including London, by sea or because it was found on beaches (especially in northeast England) having fallen from exposed coal seams above or washed out of underwater coal seam outcrops By the thirteenth century, underground mining from shafts or adits was developed (Britannica, 2004) It was, however, the development of the industrial revolution that led to the large-scale use of coal, as the steam engine took over from the water wheel The earliest use of coal in the Americas was by the Aztecs who used coal not only for heat but as ornaments as well Coal deposits were discovered by colonists in eastern North America in the eighteenth century In the modern world, coal is primarily used as a solid fuel to produce electricity (approximately 40 percent of the world electricity production uses coal) and heat through combustion (Fig 59)
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Types of coal Carbon/energy content of coal High Moisture content of coal High
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% of world reserves
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Low rank coals 47% Lignite 17% Subbituminous 30%
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Hard coal 53% Bituminous 52% Thermal Metallurgical steam coal coking coal Anthracite 1%
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Uses
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Largely power Power generation generation cement manufacture industrial uses
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Manufacture Domestic/ Power generation cement manufacture of iron & steel industrial including industrial uses smokeless fuel
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FIGURE 59
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Uses of coal
However, coal through the gasification process and the production of synthesis gas opens the way to a very wide range of products that include liquid fuels (Fig 510) When coal is used for electricity generation, it is usually pulverized and then burned in a furnace with a boiler The furnace heat converts boiler water to steam, which is then used to
FUELS FROM COAL
Power & steam Naphtha Waxes Fischertropsch liquids
Coal Gasification Synthesis gas H2
Iron reduction Fuel/town gas Ammonia & urea
Diesel/jet/gas fuels Methanol Synthetic natural gas Methyl acetate Acetic acid VAM PVA Ketene Diketene & derivatives Acetate esters Oxo chemicals Acetic anhydride Polyolefins Ethylene & propylene Dimethyl ether
FIGURE 510 Illustration of the potential for coal through the gasification process (Source: Lynn Schloesser, L: Gasification Incentives, Workshop on Gasification Technologies, Ramkota, Bismarck, North Dakota, June 28 29, 2006)
spin turbines which turn generators and create electricity (Fig 511) The thermodynamic efficiency of this process has been improved over time Steam turbines have topped out with some of the most advanced reaching, about 35 percent thermodynamic efficiency for the entire process, which means 65 percent of the coal energy is rejected as waste heat into the surrounding environment Old coal power plants are often less efficient and reject
Coal-fired Power Plant
Stack
Steam line Coal supply
Generator Turbine Switchyard
Conveyor belt Boiler River or reservoir Cooling water
FIGURE 511 Electricity generation from coal
Condenser
CHAPTER FIVE
higher levels of waste heat The emergence of the supercritical turbine concept envisions running a boiler at extremely high temperature and pressure with projected efficiencies of 46 percent, with further theorized increases in temperature and pressure perhaps resulting in even higher efficiencies A more energy-efficient way of using coal for electricity production would be via solidoxide fuel cells or molten-carbonate fuel cells (or any oxygen ion transport based fuel cells that do not discriminate between fuels, as long as they consume oxygen), which would be able to get 60 to 85 percent combined efficiency (direct electricity plus waste heat steam turbine) Currently these fuel cell technologies can only process gaseous fuels, and they are also sensitive to sulfur poisoning, issues which would first have to be worked out before large-scale commercial success is possible with coal As far as gaseous fuels go, one idea is pulverized coal in a gas carrier, such as nitrogen Another option is coal gasification with water, which may lower fuel cell voltage by introducing oxygen to the fuel side of the electrolyte, but may also greatly simplify carbon sequestration The potential for coal to be converted to fuels is dependent upon these properties, not the least of which is the carbon content (ie, the chemical composition) and the energy value (calorific value) Chemically, coal is a hydrogen-deficient hydrocarbon with an atomic hydrogen-tocarbon ratio near 08, as compared to petroleum hydrocarbons, which have an atomic hydrogen-to-carbon ratio approximately equal to 2, and methane that has an atomic carbonto-hydrogen ratio equal to 4 For this reason, any process used to convert coal to alternative fuels must add hydrogen The chemical composition of the coal is defined in terms of its proximate and ultimate (elemental) analyses (Speight, 1994) The parameters of proximate analysis are moisture, volatile matter, ash, and fixed carbon Elemental or ultimate analysis encompasses the quantitative determination of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, sulfur, and oxygen within the coal Additionally, specific physical and mechanical properties of coal and particular carbonization properties are also determined The calorific value Q of coal is the heat liberated by its complete combustion with oxygen Q is a complex function of the elemental composition of the coal Q can be determined experimentally using calorimeters Dulong suggests the following approximate formula for Q when the oxygen content is less than 10 percent: Q = 337C + 1442(H O/8) + 93S C is the mass percent of carbon, H is the mass percent of hydrogen, O is the mass percent of oxygen, and S is the mass percent of sulfur in the coal With these constants, Q is given in kilojoules per kilogram (1 kJ/kg = 2326 Btu/lb) The production of fuels from coal in relation to fuels from other energy technologies is dependent upon the cost of fuels from other sources and, most important, the degree of self sufficiency required by various level of government The nature of coal is a major factor (assuming an ample supply of coal reserves) and the need for desulfurization of the products as well as the various steps leading from the mining of coal to its end use Nevertheless, the production of fuels from coal is an old concept having been employed since it was first discovered that the strange black rock would burn when ignited and produce heat Coal can be liquefied by either direct or indirect processes (ie, by using the gaseous products obtained by breaking down the chemical structure of coal) to produce liquid products Four general methods are used for liquefaction: (a) pyrolysis and hydrocarbonization (coal is heated in the absence of air or in a stream of hydrogen), (b) solvent extraction (coal hydrocarbons are selectively dissolved and hydrogen is added to produce the desired liquids), (c) catalytic liquefaction (hydrogenation takes place in the presence of a catalyst), and (d) indirect liquefaction (carbon monoxide and hydrogen are combined in the presence of a catalyst)
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