Operational efficiency of a coal preparation plant plays a vital role in the profitability of mining operations. Coal preparation is a series of operations that are interconnected through a material handling system. The material handling system is a part of the slurry transport system. Actual cleaning processes lies in the heart of the coal preparation processes.
Coal preparation begins with procurement of raw coal and producing a final product that can be sold into the market by removing the impurities. Most commonly coal preparation, is carried out in water based processes and makes high use of slurry transport procedures and principles. It is considered as processing of raw coal to produce products that are marketable and do not hamper the physical and chemical properties of the coal. It is a heterogeneous material which is made up of different types of coal and varies with quantity of mineral matter. After mining, it generally contains all the layers of coal and impurities that are found in the seam. In a preparation plant, crushing and removing of all the impurities takes place in order to transport coal as a marketable product.
Four basic types of operations are used in cleaning of coal such as comminution, concentration, dewatering and sizing. Comminution is carried out to reduce the coal into smaller size. Depending on the various sizes involved, the coal is crushed and broken. Breaking is generally carried out on the largest coal size, crushing is used for mid ranges sizes and grinding is carried out for finest sizes. Grinding is done prior to utilization process. Coal preparation facilities have different size ranges for similar types of coals. Sizing is carried to separate the coal into various products characterized according to the size. Concentration is used for separating the coal into numerous products that are characterized by some type of physical differences. It is the heart of coal preparation process, where actual cleaning takes place and impurities are then separated from coal. They are generally accomplished in dense medium vessels, jigs and water only cyclones. It can also be accomplished for other type of unit operations such as sulfur removal by crushing process to liberate the sulfur particles. Further, screening or classifying is carried out to achieve separation.
Dewatering takes place to remove the moisture that clings to the coal. A finer type of coal has large surface area and high moisture content. Dewatering is generally carried out by mechanical methods, and is conducted for generating a damp type cake. If further dewatering is required then dryers are used for evaporation. Thermal dryers generate large amount of dust that is easily scrubbed off from air and is then generally disposed. A common type of byproduct for dewatering is removal of super fine type coal, in which high content of ash is found along with traces of sulfur and surface moisture. This process is also known as desliming.
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Some of the key companies in the business of coal preparation plant market are Mongolian Mining Corporation, Zenith Mining and Construction Machinery Co. Ltd., SGS Group management S.A., Green Fields Coal Company and Roberts & Schaefer Company among others.