Bituminous coal: description and usages
Coal has been used as a fuel or energy source since the Industrial Revolution. While it is no longer used to run steam locomotives, it is still employed in certain areas where energy needs are great, such as for thermal generation, the steel making industry, cement manufacturing and as a source of liquefied fuel (gasoline from coal).
Types of coal
Coal is actually a mineral sediment containing a high percentage of carbon, a low percentage of moisture and a very low percentage of nitrogen. The carbon is that, when burned in contact with air or oxygen, provides thermal energy, which is then transformed into other types of energy.
Coal is categorized by its hardness or its carbon content:
- Graphite: superior coal but difficult to burn, so little used in combustion;
- Anthracite: good-quality coal, very hard, often used for heating;
- Bituminous coal: dense coal that can be converted into coke, a fuel made by distilling softer coals, used to heat the blast furnaces in steel mills;
- Sub-bituminous coal: coal with qualities of both bituminous coal and lignite;
- Lignite: low-category coal with a high level of moisture, but still having a place in steam thermal generating stations.
Usages in thermal generating stations, the steel industry and carbon chemistry
Today, electrical generation is still the most common usage for coal. Thermal generating stations burn it in industrial boilers to heat water. The heat created turns the water into steam, and this activates a turbine coupled to an alternator to generate electricity.
Bituminous coal is the most valuable sort for the steel industry. It is mixed with iron ore and the combination is heated in industrial ovens at a temperature of 1000 0C. This process reduces the iron oxides, producing steel.
Coal can also be gasified in the presence of water vapor and oxygen. The result is a synthetic gas made up of carbon monoxide and hydrogen. Depending on how it is converted, this can become methanol, pure hydrogen, a synthetic fuel, etc.
Multotec in the Eastern United States
Multotec helps mine owners to extract and process coal for all of these usages. Multotec’s leading-edge equipment, including DMS cyclones, classification cyclones, sieve bends, centrifuges, screens, screening media, magnetic separators and spiral concentrators, are used to pre-concentrate, separate, upgrade and recover ore. Mining operations here and abroad, including those in the Eastern United States, are provided with economic, efficient solutions through experienced equipment suppliers like Multotec.
Early in 2017, the following countries had the largest coal reserves:
- United States (22.1% of world reserves);
- China (21.4%);
- Russia (14.1%).
The mining landscape is still practically the same, with the United States still at the top of the list. There are a number of mines operating in the Eastern United States, in particularly in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Kentucky. Multotec is an expert in processing coal, including bituminous coal, and its branch office in Vancouver, Canada, serves clients in the Eastern United States.