Bituminous Coal

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What is Bituminous Coal?

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Bituminous coal is actually the most copious rank of coal found in the United States, and it accounted for approximately 48% of U.S total coal production in 2019. In the United States, it is aged between 100 million and 300 million years old. Bituminous coal is used for producing electricity and is a significant fuel and raw material for generating coking coal. It is also used as a raw agent in the iron and steel industry.

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Percentage of Carbon in Bituminous Coal

The Bituminous coal comprises 45%–86% of carbon. Coal rock is actually composed of almost pure carbon. The coal in different deposits consists of different configurations, thus, coal is divided in different categories. After Anthracite, Bituminous coal is the second highest quality of coal and the most copious type. Generally, it is derived from fairly old coal deposits (about 300 million years) and exposes a carbon content which varies from 76-86%. The energy density of this coal is comparatively high (27 MJ/kg), thus, disperse a substantial amount of energy when burned.

Heating Value of Bituminous Coal

Bituminous coal renders about 10,500 to 15,000 BTU per pound when mined.

Prosperities of Bituminous Coal

  • Bituminous coal has moisture content up to 17%.

  • Approximately 0.5 to 2% of the weight of bituminous coal is nitrogen.

  • Its fixed carbon content ranges up to 85%, with ash content up to 12% in weight.

  • The calorific value of bituminous coal A is 8 - 10% about 6,300 - 7,000 kcal/kg while that of medium volatile bituminous has 7,000 - 8,000 kcal/kg.

  • Bituminous coal can be further divided by the level of volatile matter it consists of, like high-volatile A, B, and C, medium-volatile, and low-volatile.

  • Volatile matter takes into account any material that is free from the coal at high temperatures.

  • In the context of coal, the volatile matter may include sulfur and hydrocarbons.

What is Sub Bituminous Coal?

Subbituminous coal essentially comprises 35%–45% carbon, and comparatively has a lower heating value than bituminous coal. Most sub bituminous coal in the U.S are at least 100 million years old. Around 44% of the total coal production of the United States in 2019 was subbituminous while the remainder was yielded in Alaska, Colorado and New Mexico.

Bituminous Coal Uses

High carbon content and low moisture of this specific coal type makes it ideal in the production use of steel and cement, as well as in coke production and electricity generation and coke production.

Types and Uses of Bituminous Coal Uses

Bituminous Coal is divided into 2 type’s i.e.

  1. Thermal Coal

  2. Metallurgical Coal

Thermal Coal: also referred to as steaming coal, it is deployed to power plants which produce steam for electricity and industrial uses. Trains that operate on steam engines often are fueled with "bituminous coal,".

Metallurgical Coal: also sometimes called coking coal, is used in the making of coke. This type of coke is a source of carbon necessary for making steel and iron.

Environmental Concerns Associated With Bituminous Coal

  • Bituminous coal ignites fire easily and can thus yield immoderate smoke and soot – if burned improperly.

  • The high sulfur of bituminous contributes to acid rain.

  • Consisting of the mineral pyrite, which caters as a host for impurities such as arsenic and mercury, it releases pollution in the air.

  • When burned, bituminous coal releases hazardous emissions like hydrogen fluoride (HF), hydrogen chloride (HCl), and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).

  • Partial combustion results in higher levels of PAHs that are carcinogenic.

Bituminous Coal Facts

  • Bituminous coal ranks 2nd in carbon and heat content in comparison to other types of coal

  • Earlier in the 20th century, bituminous coal mining was a tremendously dangerous task, taking away the lives of an average of 1,700 coal miners' annually. About 2,500 workers per year were left permanently disabled as an outcome of coal mining mishap.

  • Little particles of bituminous coal waste left over after preparation of commercial-grade coal is known as "coal fines."

  • Coal Fines are very light weighted, dusty, and difficult to manage, and traditionally were stored with water in alluvium impoundments to prevent them from blowing away.

  • Breakthrough technologies have been developed to recoup coal fines. One technique employs a centrifuge to isolate the coal particles from the alluvium water. Other techniques bind the fines into briquettes which contain low moisture content, making them apt for fuel use.

  • Bituminous coal has been generated in at least 19 states in 2019, but five states reckoned around 75% of total bituminous production: West Virginia accounted for 27.5%, Pennsylvania (14.0%), Illinois (13.5%), Kentucky (10.6%), and Indiana (9.3%).

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

Q1. How is Coal Formed?

Answer: Coal takes millions of years to occur. It is a combustible sedimentary rock having a high amount of carbons and hydrocarbons. Generally black or brownish in color, it is described as a non-renewable source of energy since its formation takes millions of years. Coal comprises the energy stored by plants which survived through hundreds of millions of years ago in swampy forests.

Layers of thick dirt and rock blanketed the plants over millions of years. The consequent heat and pressure converted the plants into the substance we call coal.

Bituminous and sub-bituminous coal exhibits over 90% of the total coal consumed in the United States. Bituminous coal acquired its name as it consists of a tar-like substance known as bitumen.

Q2. Is Coal Consumption Hazardous?

Answer: Burning bituminous coal exhibits adverse health risks. This is because firstly, this type of coal generates enormous amounts of smoke and smudge and its high sulphur content bestows acid rain with the release of sulphur oxides (SOx). In addition, bituminous coal can contain perilous impurities and toxins such as arsenic and mercury, and these impurities are spread out into the air as pollution when the coal is burned. Burning bituminous coal also releases a considerable amount of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides which is unfavorable for environmental as well as human health.

However, bituminous coal when burnt at higher temperatures decreases its carbon monoxide emissions. Thus, massive and well-maintained combustion units render lower pollution output.