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Coal Preparation Method: Wet & Dry Selection

There are many kinds of coal preparation methods, which can be summarized into two categories: wet and dry coal preparation. The coal preparation process is carried out in water, heavy liquid, or suspension, called wet coal preparation. The coal preparation process is carried out in the air, called dry coal preparation. Wet and dry coal preparation are two different approaches to coal cleaning or coal preparation, which involve different methods and processes for removing impurities from coal.

Wet Coal Preparation

Wet coal preparation, also known as coal washing, is a process that involves the separation of impurities from coal using water and various mechanical and chemical techniques. Wet coal preparation is a method that uses water, resuspension liquid, or other liquid fluids as the separation medium. This method is widely used, but the water consumption is large. The product must be dehydrated (or de-medium), dried, and the multiple operations of muddy water drinking tailing coal (washing gangue) treatment. The process is relatively complicated, with high capital investment and production costs.

Critical Steps of Wet Coal Preparation Process

Crushing: The raw coal is crushed into smaller particles to facilitate separation.

Screening: The crushed coal is screened or passed through sieves to separate it into different size fractions. This step helps in removing larger impurities and improving the coal quality.

Dense Medium Separation (DMS): Wet coal preparation often employs dense medium separation, where a dense medium, typically a suspension of finely ground magnetite in water, separates coal from impurities based on their density differences. The coal particles with lower density float while the heavier impurities sink. This method is effective for removing impurities like rock and shale.

Froth Flotation: Froth flotation can also be used in wet coal preparation to separate coal from impurities that have similar densities. The coal is mixed with water, a flotation agent and air bubbles are introduced. The coal particles attach to the bubbles and rise to the surface, while the impurities remain in the water. The froth containing the coal is then collected and dried.

Dewatering: After the separation, the coal is often subjected to dewatering techniques to remove excess water. It can be done using centrifuges, filters, or other dewatering equipment.

Dry Coal Preparation

Dry coal preparation, as the name suggests, involves removing impurities from coal without water. This method is particularly suitable for coal in a dry state or where water availability is limited. Dry coal preparation offers advantages such as reduced water consumption, lower operational costs, and potential environmental benefits by eliminating the need for water treatment and disposal. However, it may require additional energy input for the separation processes compared to wet coal preparation.

Critical Steps of Dry Coal Preparation Process

Crushing: The raw coal is crushed into smaller particles.

Screening: The crushed coal is screened to separate into different-size fractions and remove larger impurities.

Air Dense Medium Fluidized Bed (ADMFB) Separation: Dry coal preparation often employs an ADMFB separator. This specialized device uses air as the medium instead of water. The coal particles are suspended in an upward airflow, and separation occurs based on density differences. The lighter coal particles are carried upward, while the heavier impurities settle downward.

Dry Densimetric Separation: Another method used in dry coal preparation is dry densimetric separation, which relies on differences in the density of coal and impurities. The coal and impurities are subjected to an air stream with variable velocity and direction. As a result, the particles with higher density, such as impurities, separate from the lighter coal particles.

How to Choose Dry or Wet Coal Preparation?

The choice between wet and dry coal preparation methods depends on several factors. Here are some considerations to help determine which approach is more suitable.

Coal Properties

The characteristics of the coal, such as its particle size distribution, density, and moisture content, can influence the choice of preparation method. Some coals may be better suited for wet preparation due to their higher moisture content or the presence of impurities that can be more effectively removed with water-based processes. Dry preparation may be more appropriate for coals with low moisture content or limited water availability.


Impurity Types and Levels

The nature and concentration of impurities in the coal also play a role in selecting the preparation method. Wet preparation methods, such as dense medium separation and froth flotation, are often effective at removing impurities like rock, shale, and sulfur-containing minerals. Dry preparation methods, such as air-dense medium fluidized bed separation and dry densimetric separation, may be suitable for coals with impurities efficiently separated based on density differences.

Water Availability and Environmental Considerations

Water availability and environmental factors should be considered when choosing between wet and dry preparation. Wet coal preparation typically requires significant water resources for washing, DMS, and froth flotation. If water availability is limited or if there are concerns about water usage and treatment, dry preparation methods may be preferred. Dry preparation can reduce water consumption and minimize the need for water treatment and disposal.

Cost and Energy Considerations

Cost and energy requirements are essential factors in the decision-making process. Wet coal preparation may have higher capital and operational costs due to the need for water infrastructure, treatment systems, and dewatering processes. Dry preparation methods may require additional energy input for air-based separation processes. Evaluating each method’s cost-effectiveness and energy efficiency can help guide the selection.

End Use Requirements

The intended use of the coal and the desired quality specifications also influence the choice of preparation method. Certain industries or applications may have specific requirements for coal quality, such as moisture content, ash content, or sulfur levels. Evaluating whether wet or dry preparation can better meet the desired coal quality for the intended end use is essential.

It’s important to note that selecting wet or dry coal preparation methods is often a case-by-case decision based on the specific coal properties, site conditions, and project requirements. Conducting a thorough analysis of these factors and considering technical, economic, and environmental aspects can help determine the most suitable approach for coal preparation.

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