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Coal Power Generation

Coal power, an established electricity source that provides vast quantities of inexpensive, reliable power has become more important as supplies of oil and natural gas diminish.

Coal power is a rather simple process. In most coal fired power plants, chunks of coal are crushed into fine powder and are fed into a combustion unit where it is burned. Heat from the burning coal is used to generate steam that is used to spin one or more turbines to generate electricity.

Coal has played a major role in electrical production since the first power plants that were built in the United States in the1880's

The earliest power plants used hand fed wood or coal to heat a boiler and produce steam. This steam was used in reciprocating steam engines which turned generators to produce electricity

In 1884, the more efficient high speed steam turbine was developed by British engineer Charles A. Parsons which replaced the use of steam engines to generate electricity.

In the 1920s, the pulverized coal firing was developed. This process brought advantages that included a higher combustion temperature, improved thermal efficiency and a lower requirement for excess air for combustion.

In the 1940s, the cyclone furnace was developed. This new technology allowed the combustion of poorer grade of coal with less ash production and greater overall efficiency.

Presently, coal power is still based on the same methods started over 100 years ago, but improvements in all areas have brought coal power to be the inexpensive power source used so widely today.

How Coal Formed?

Coal is a fossil fuel created from the remains of plants that lived and died about 100 400 million years ago when parts of the earth were covered with huge swampy forests. Coal is classified as a non renewable energy source because it takes millions of years to form.

Millions of years ago, dead plant matter fell into swampy water and over the years, a thick layer of dead plants lay decaying at the bottom of the swamps. Over time, the surface and climate of the earth changed, and more water and dirt washed in, halting the decay process.

The weight of the top layers of water and dirt packed down the lower layers of plant matter. Under heat and pressure, this plant matter underwent chemical and physical changes, pushing out oxygen and leaving rich hydrocarbon deposits. What once had been plants gradually turned into coal.

What is Coal?
Coal is combustible material consisting primarily of the element carbon, but with low percentages of solid, liquid, and gaseous hydrocarbons and other materials, such as compounds of nitrogen and sulfur. Coal is usually classified into the sub-groups known as anthracite, bituminous, lignite, and peat. The physical, chemical, and other properties of coal vary considerably from sample to sample

Types of Coal
Considered to be a precursor of coal, has industrial importance as a fuel in some regions, for example, Ireland and Finland.

In its dehydrated form, peat is a highly effective absorbent for fuel and oil spills on land and water. It is also used as a conditioner for soil to make it more able to retain and slow release water.

Also known as brown coal, is the lowest rank of coal and used almost exclusively as fuel for electric power generation. Jet is a compact form of lignite that is sometimes polished and has been used as an ornamental stone since the Upper Palaeolithic

It is the lowest rank of coal, with a heating value of 4,000 8,300 Btu per pound. Lignite is crumbly and has high moisture content.


Whose properties range from those of lignite to those of bituminous coal, is used primarily as fuel for steamelectric power generation and is an important source of light aromatic hydrocarbons for the chemical synthesis industry. Sub-bituminous coal typically contains less heating value and more moisture than bituminous coal (8,300 13,000 Btu per pound). It contains 35 45% carbon. .


It is dense sedimentary rock, black but sometimes dark brown often with well-defined bands of bright and dull material, used primarily as fuel in steam-electric power generation, with substantial quantities used for heat and power applications in manufacturing and to make coke

Bituminous coal was formed by further addition of heat and pressure on lignite during coal formation process. Bituminous coal looks smooth and sometimes shiny, contain 11,000-15,500 Btu per pound, between 45 86% carbon.

Steam Coal

A grade between bituminous coal and anthracite, once widely used as a fuel for steam locomotives. In this specialized use it is sometimes known as sea-coal in the U.S. Small steam coal (dry small steam nuts or DSSN) was used as a fuel for domestic water heating.

The highest rank of coal is a harder, glossy, black coal used primarily for residential and commercial space heating. It may be divided further into metamorphically altered bituminous coal and petrified oil, as from the deposits in Pennsylvania. Anthracite was created where additional pressure combined with very high temperature inside the earth. It is deep black and looks almost metallic due to its glossy surface, contain around 15,000 Btu per pound energy and 86 97% carbon.


Technically the highest rank is difficult to ignite and is not commonly used as fuel: it is mostly used in pencils and, when powdered, as a lubricant.

The classification of coal is generally based on the content of volatiles. However, the exact classification varies between countries. According to the German classification, coal is classified as follows
German Classification Braunkohle Flammkohle Gasflammkohle English Designation Lignite Flame coal Gas flame coal Gas coal Fat coal Forge coal Non baking coal Anthracite Volatiles % C Carbon % H Hydrogen % 6.0-5.8 6.0-5.8 5.8-5.6 O Oxygen % S Sulfur % Heat content kJ/kg <28470 <32870 <33910

45-65 40-45 35-40

60-75 75-82 82-85

34-17 >9.8 9.8-7.3

0.5-3 ~1 ~1

Gaskohle Fettkohle Esskohle

28-35 19-28 14-19

85-87.5 87.5-89.5 89.5-90.5

5.6-5.0 5.0-4.5 4.5-4.0

7.3-4.5 4.5-3.2 3.2-2.8

~1 ~1 ~1

<34960 <35380 <35380


10-14 7-12

90.5-91.5 >91.5

4.0-3.75 <3.75

2.8-3.5 <2.5

~1 ~1

35380 <35300

Anthrazit Percent by weight

How the Coal is mined?

Generally, there are two ways to remove coal from the ground surface and underground mining. Surface mining is used when a coal seam is relatively close to the surface, usually within 200 feet. Kinds of Surfaced Mining: Area/Strip Mining Contour Mining Mountaintop coal mining

Area/Strip Mining exposes the coal by removing the overburden (the earth above the coal seam(s)) in long cuts or strips.
The soil from the first strip is deposited in an area outside the planned mining area. Spoil from subsequent cuts is deposited as fill in the previous cut after coal has been removed. Usually, the process is to drill the strip of overburden next to the previously mined strip.

Contour Mining method consists of removing overburden from the seam in a pattern following the contours along a ridge or around a hillside.
This method is most commonly used in areas with rolling to steep terrain. It was once common to deposit the spoil on the downslope side of the bench thus created, but this method of spoil disposal consumed much additional land and created severe landslide and erosion problems.

Mountaintop coal mining is a surface mining practice involving removal of mountaintops to expose coal seams, and disposing of associated mining overburden in adjacent "valley fills. Valley fills occur in steep terrain where there are limited disposal alternatives.

Underground (or deep) mining is used when the coal seam is buried several hundred feet below the surface.
Room and pillar mining consists of coal deposits that are mined by cutting a network of rooms into the coal seam. Pillars of coal are left behind in order to keep up the roof. The pillars can make up to forty percent of the total coal in the seam, however where there was space to leave head and floor coal there is evidence from recent open cast excavations that 18th century operators used a variety of room and pillar techniques to remove 92 percent of the in situ coal. However, this can be extracted at a later stage.

There are five principal methods of underground mining: Longwall mining accounts for about 50 percent of underground production. The longwall shearer has a face of 1,000 feet (300 m) or more.
It is a sophisticated machine with a rotating drum that moves mechanically back and forth across a wide coal seam. The loosened coal falls on to a pan line that takes the coal to the conveyor belt for removal from the work area. Longwall systems have their own hydraulic roof supports which advance with the machine as mining progresses.

Continuous mining utilizes a Continuous Miner Machine with a large rotating steel drum equipped with tungsten carbide teeth that scrape coal from the seam. Operating in a room and pillar (also known as bord and pillar ) system where the mine is divided into a series of 20to-30 foot (5 10 m) rooms or work areas cut into the coalbed it can mine as much as five tons of coal a minute, more than a non-mechanised mine of the 1920s would produce in an entire day.

Blast mining or conventional mining, is an older practice that uses explosives such as dynamite to break up the coal seam, after which the coal is gathered and loaded on to shuttle cars or conveyors for removal to a central loading area.
This process consists of a series of operations that begins with cutting the coalbed so it will break easily when blasted with explosives. This type of mining accounts for less than 5 percent of total underground production in the US today.

Shortwall mining, a method currently accounting for less than 1 percent of deep coal production, involves the use of a continuous mining machine with movable roof supports, similar to longwall. The continuous miner shears coal panels 150 to 200 feet (40 to 60 m) wide and more than a half-mile (1 km) long, having regard to factors such as geological strata.

Retreat mining is a method in which the pillars or coal ribs used to hold up the mine roof are extracted; allowing the mine roof to collapse as the mining works back towards the entrance. This is one of the most dangerous forms of mining, owing to imperfect predictability of when the ceiling will collapse and possibly crush or trap workers in the mine.

Dangers to miners
Build-ups of a hazardous gas are known as damps, possibly from the German word "Dampf" which means steam or vapor:
Black damp: a mixture of carbon dioxide and nitrogen in a mine can cause suffocation, and is formed as a result of corrosion in enclosed spaces so removing oxygen from the atmosphere. After damp: similar to black damp, after damp consists of carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and nitrogen and forms after a mine explosion. Fire damp: consists of mostly methane, a highly flammable gas that explodes between 5% and 15% - at 25% it causes asphyxiation. Stink damp: so named for the rotten egg smell of the hydrogen sulphide gas, stink damp can explode and is also very toxic. White damp: air containing carbon monoxide which is toxic, even at low concentrations Chronic lung diseases, such as pneumoconiosis (black lung) were once common in miners, leading to reduced life expectancy

Impacts of Coal Mining

Release of methane, a greenhouse gas causing climate change Waste products, including uranium, thorium, and other radioactive and heavy metal contaminants Acid mine drainage (AMD) Interference with groundwater and water table levels Impact of water use on flows of rivers and consequent impact on other land uses Dust Tunnels sometimes damage infrastructure (e.g. roads) Land rendered unsuitable for other use

Control of Pollutants from Coal Mining:

Mine Water from Acid Mine Drainage
The first measure is to separate surface waters to reduce the volume of mine waters to a minimum. Mine waters are first treated in sedimentation ponds and then in mine water purification plants which work on the oxidation-neutralisation principle. Removed are primarily iron, manganese and non-soluble substances.

Coal-Fired Power Plant

Coal-Fired Power Plant

More than half of the electricity generated in the world is by using coal as the primary fuel. The function of the coal fired thermal power plant is to convert the energy available in the coal to electricity. Coal power plants work by using several steps to convert stored energy in coal to usable electricity that we find in our home that powers our lights, computers, and sometimes, back into heat for our homes.

Coal-Fired Thermal Power Plant

Major Stages in a Coal-Fired Power Plant:

Coal Arrival/Coalyard Storing and Pulverizing Combustion and Steam Turbine and Generator Water Reuse/Condenser Electricity s Path

Coal Arrival/Coalyard

Storing and Pulverizing

Combustion and Steam

Turbine and Generator

Water Reuse/Condenser

Electricity s Path

Coal Power Stations in the Philippines

Sual Power Station

Masinloc Power Station Mindanao Coal Power Station

Quezon Power Station


Advantages of Coal Power

Supplying approximately 50% of electricity to the US

Coal-mining stimulates over one million jobs in the U.S. Coal contributes over $80 billion annually to the economy

 Larger power plants are more efficient  38% of the chemical energy is converted to energy

 safest fossil fuel to transport, store and use

Some of the advantages of coal are :

Easily combustible, and produces high energy upon combustion helping in locomotion and in the generation of electricity and various other forms of energy; Widely and easily distributed all over the world; Comparatively inexpensive due to large reserves and easy accessibility Good availability Inexpensive Very large amounts of electricity can be generated in one place using coal, fairly cheaply. A fossil-fuelled power station can be built almost anywhere, so long as you can get large quantities of fuel to it. Most coal fired power stations have dedicated rail links to supply the coal.

Disadvantages of Coal Power

Coal-Fired Power Plants are the largest contributor of hazardous air pollutants.
Sulfur dioxide (SO2) Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Mercury

Some disadvantages of coal are that:

It is Nonrenewable and fast depleting. High coal transportation costs, especially for countries with no coal resources and hence will require special harbours for coal import and storage. Coal storage cost is high especially if required to have enough stock for few years to assure power production availability. Burning fossil fuels releases carbon dioxide, a powerful greenhouse gas, that had been stored in the earth for millions of years, contributing to global warming. It leaves behind harmful byproducts upon combustion, thereby causing a lot of pollution Mining of coal leads to irreversible damage to the adjoining environment;

Some disadvantages of coal are that :

Mining and burning of coal pollutes the environment, causes acid rain and ruins all living creature's lungs. It will eventually run out. It cannot be recycled. Prices for all fossil fuels are rising, especially if the real cost of their carbon is included. An average of 170 pounds of mercury is made by one coal plant every year. When 1/70 of a teaspoon of mercury is put in to a 50-acre lake it can make the fish unsafe to eat. Coal power puts the lives of the people who dig the coal in danger, and it gives them poor lung quality. Also, it ruins the natural habitats of animals. A coal plant generates about 3,700,000 tons of carbon dioxide every year; this is one of the main causes of global warming.

Some disadvantages of coal are that :

A single coal plant creates 10,000 tons of sulfur dioxide, which causes acid rain that damages forests, lakes, and buildings. When people dig for coal, they cut down many trees. A coal plant also creates 720 tons of carbon monoxide; which causes headaches and place additional stress on people with heart disease. A 500-megawatt coal- fired plant draws about 2.2 billion gallons of water from nearby bodies of water. This is enough water to support approximately 250,000 people. Cultivating coal is a very dangerous job - many men and women die each year in coal mine related failures and accidents

Toxilogical and Environment Properties of Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAPs) Emitted from Electric Generating Stations by Coal

Characteristics of Major Coal Types Used to Generate Electricity

Contributions of Coal-Fired Power Plants to Selected Hazardous Air Pollutant Emissions

Residence Time of Hazardous Air Pollutants in Atmosphere

Control of Collateral and Hazardous Air Pollutants From Coal-Fired Power Plants

Control Technology Carbon capture and sequestration

Which Pollutants Controlled? Carbon dioxide

How This Technology Works? It involves capturing the carbon dioxide produced by the combustion of coal and storing it in deep ocean areas or in underground geological structures deep within the Earth's upper crust. NOx is mixed with ammonia, the mixture travels in a series of catalytic layers. This allows the NOx to react with NH3 to produce H2O and N2.

Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR)

Nitrogen Oxides

Integrated Schematic Diagram of Coal-Fired Power Plant with Pollution Control Equipment