ACARP ACARP ACARP ACARP
Technical Market Support

Trace Elements in Internationally Traded Thermal Coals

Technical Market Support » Thermal Coal

Published: March 95Project Number: C3096

Get ReportAuthor: Les Dale | CSIRO Energy Technology

Trace elements in coal are receiving greater attention in the assessment of the environmental impact of electricity generation from coal-fired power stations. The levels of many trace elements of environmental concern are now assuming greater importance in terms of emission of air toxics, waste ash disposal strategies and ash utilisation processes.  Australia is the world's largest exporter of thermal coal with 25.9% of the market. It is however facing increased competition from both traditional and new suppliers. With the increasing concerns about trace elements in coal utilisation it would be advantageous to demonstrate the environmental acceptability of our coals. This can be achieved by establishing a database on the levels of trace elements in thermal coals exported by Australia and those produced by its competitors for the international market.

Summary

The levels of trace elements in thermal coals are becoming of increasing importance in the assessment of environmental impact of electricity generation from coal-fired power stations. The concerns about trace element levels relate to the emission of air toxics and the disposal and utilisation of waste ash.

Recent amendments to the US Clean Air Act have classified a number of key environmental trace elements and imposed emission limits on their discharge limits. In many other countries legislation has been introduced limiting the discharge of environmental trace elements (Clarke and Sloss, 1992). In addition, regulations of ash disposal in a number of European countries have drawn attention to trace elements levels in waste ash and their potential environmental impact.

The stability of waste ash in ash utilisation processes such as the manufacture of building materials is also of concern, not only from the magnitude of the levels of trace elements present, but also from the radioactivity of the ash resulting from the presence of uranium and thorium and the natural radionuclides arising from their radioactive daughter products.

These concerns will focus more attention on the levels of trace elements in power station feedstocks and are likely to have a significant impact on the world thermal coal export market.

In order to maintain Australia's position as the major supplier of internationally traced coals, data on the levels of trace elements of environmental concern are required to demonstrate the quality and acceptability of Australian thermal coals in relation to environmental impact.

Previous data by Knott and Warbrooke (1984) and Dale et al. (1991), have shown that Australian thermal coals contain low levels of environmentally sensitive trace elements compared to overseas coals. However data available in the literature on the levels of trace elements in thermal coals produced by Australia's major competitors is rather sparse and of questionable value.

This is because of the lack of reliable and accurate standard methods of analysis and the uncertainties of the origin and representative nature of the samples for which data are presented.

The only valid comparison of the levels of trace elements in Australian export thermal coals and those supplied to the international market by its competitors would be to characterise representative samples of local and foreign coals in the one laboratory using reliable and validated analytical methods.

This has been achieved through the acquisition of a range of representative internationally-traded coals obtained through a European importer of power station feedstocks and the application of accurate and reliable analytical methods, based on modern techniques, developed in a current ACARP research project (Project No. C3015). For the comparison, a selection of Australian export thermal coals from New South Wales and Queensland were selected as being commonly supplied to the international market by Australia's major producers.

The coals were chemically analysed for most trace elements of environmental concern classified by the United States National Research Council (1980), and included the radioactive elements uranium and thorium as well as natural radionuclides arising from the radioactive decay of uranium and thorium isotopes.

Objectives of The Study

The aim of this study was to characterise a range of Australian export thermal coals and other internationally traded thermal coals for trace elements of environmental concern. To achieve this, representative export coals from the United States of America, South Africa, Indonesia, China, Poland, Colombia and Venezuela were obtained.

Both the Australian and international coals were analysed for key environmental trace elements using accurate and reliable methods developed in tis laboratory. These data would therefore provide a useful database to assist in marketing.

Conclusion

Australian thermal coals were found to generally contain significantly lower levels of arsenic, selenium and mercury. The levels of other trace elements of environmental concern differed both within and between the Australian and international coals. The significance of these differences can only be assessed in terms of the ultimate residence of the trace elements in waste products.

The potential environmental impact of the utilisation of the coals was assessed using a ranking procedure based on the combined effect of the most environmentally significant trace elements. Most Australian coals rated highly in terms of minimal environmental impact.

This study has provided the most reliable database yet available on the levels of trace elements of environmental concern in representative Australian and internally traded thermal coals.

Underground

Health and safety, productivity and environment initiatives.

Recently Completed Projects

C27039True Triaxial Strength Of Coal Measure Rocks And Its Impact On Roadway Stability And Coal Burst Assessment

Rocks in the ground are subject to a range of stresses. The stresses...

C3063Underground Vehicle Design Standards And Statutory Implications

The Australian underground diesel vehicle fleet has evolved since di...

C3064Conveyor Belting And Lagging Shear Characteristics - Drive Drum Slip

The primary aim of this project was to investigate the relationsh...

Underground

Open Cut

Safety, productivity and the right to operate are priorities for open cut mine research.

Recently Completed Projects

C29021Assessing The Impact Of Consecutive Night Shifts On Night-Time Alertness, Daytime Sleep And Timing Of The Circadian System

In the Australian coal mining industry, most guidelines for managing...

C33037Quantifying Recharge To Groundwater Systems In The NSW Coalfields (Sydney, Gunnedah And Gloucester Basins)

The purpose of this project was to estimate the rate of diffuse rec...

C26029Geological Controls On Fluorine And Phosphorus In Bowen Basin Coals

Increasing global restrictions on fluorine in product coal prompted ...

Open Cut

Coal Preparation

Maximising throughput and yield while minimising costs and emissions.

Recently Completed Projects

C27064Dry Beneficiation Using FGX And X-Ray Sorters

Conventional dry processing methods engage a single beneficiation de...

C26010Multi-Sloped Screening Efficiency With Changing Strokes, Frequencies, Feed Solids And Feed Rates-Pilot Plant Study

Optimising multi-sloped screens is often described as an art and the...

C28059Impact Of Water Quality In Coal Handling And Preparations Plants

The objective of this project was to deliver a concise reference do...

Coal Preparation

Technical Market Support

Market acceptance and emphasising the advantages of Australian coals.

Technical Market Support

Mine Site Greenhouse Gas Mitigation

Mitigating greenhouse gas emissions from the production of coal.

Recently Completed Projects

C23052Novel Stone Dust Looping Process For Ventilation Air Methane Abatement

This multi‐phase project is concerned with the mitigation of m...

C27054Optimisation Of A Thermal Flow Reversal Reactor For Ventilation Air Methane Mitigation

Ventilation air methane (VAM) generally accounts for 50-85% of the t...

C28076Selective Absorption Of Methane By Ionic Liquids (SAMIL) - Phase 2 Demonstration In A Packed Bed Reactor

An alternative approach to high temperature oxidation of ventilation...

Mine Site Greenhouse Gas Mitigation

Low Emission Coal Use

Step-change technologies aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Recently Completed Projects

C17060BGasification Of Australian Coals

Four Australian coals were trialled in the Siemens 5 MWth pilot scale ga...

C17060AOxyfuel Technology For Carbon Capture And Storage Critical Clean Coal Technology - Interim Support

The status of oxy-fuel technology for first-generation plant is indicate...

C18007Review Of Underground Coal Gasification

This report consists of a broad review of underground coal gasification,...

Low Emission Coal Use

Mining And The Community

The relationship between mines and the local community.

Recently Completed Projects

C16027Assessing Housing And Labour Market Impacts Of Mining Developments In Bowen Basin Communities

The focus of this ACARP-funded project has been to identify a number...

C22029Understanding And Managing Cumulative Impacts Of Coal Mining And Other Land Uses In Regions With Diversified Economies

The coal industry operates in the context of competing land-uses that sh...

C23016Approval And Planning Assessment Of Black Coal Mines In NSW And Qld: A Review Of Economic Assessment Techniques

This reports on issues surrounding economic assessment and analysis ...

Mining And The Community

NERDDC

National Energy Research,Development & Demonstration Council (NERDDC) reports - pre 1992.

Recently Completed Projects

1609-C1609Self Heating of Spoil Piles from Open Cut Coal Mines

Self Heating of Spoil Piles from Open Cut Coal Mines

1301-C1301Stress Control Methods for Optimised Development...

Stress Control Methods for Optimised Development and Extraction Operations

0033-C1356Commissioned Report: Australian Thermal Coals...

Commissioned Report: Australian Thermal Coals - An Industry Handbook

NERDDC