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University-industry team developing coal cleaning technology in India

Blacksburg, Va. In support of the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate, the U.S. Department of State has awarded more than $1 million to a university-industry team led by the Center for Advanced Separation Technologies at Virginia Tech to help India increase energy production and reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by developing and testing advanced technologies for cleaning coal.

It has been shown that use of beneficiated (cleaned) coals can increase thermal efficiencies and can thereby reduce CO2 emissions by up to 15 percent, said Roe-Hoan Yoon, director of the Center for Advanced Separation Technology and Nicholas T. Camicia Professor of mining and minerals engineering at Virginia Tech. By using state-of-the art technologies relating to coal quality, boiler and generator design, instrumentation and control, high-voltage distribution system, India could reduce CO2 emissions to 45 percent of its present level, he said, citing an International Energy Agency (IEA) report.

In 2005-2006, India produced 380 million tons of coal, but only 17 million tons were beneficiated coals delivered to 12 power stations, according to Professor Sumantra Bhattacharya of Indian School of Mines University.

Ash-forming minerals are finely disseminated in Indian coals, making them difficult to remove from the carbonaceous matrix using conventional physical separation methods. Because water is a scarce resource in India, the researchers will develop low-cost dry beneficiation technologies that can remove well-liberated, easy-to-reject rocks or shales that are inadvertently added during the process of mining Indian coals.

Ground-breaking research like this makes important contributions to the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate. It illustrates how the public and private sector are working together to promote innovative solutions that achieve our mutual goals on energy security, poverty reduction, clean economic growth, and environmental conservation, said Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs Paula Dobriansky.

The project team consists of researchers from three leading mining schools, Virginia Tech, Indian School of Mines, and the University of Kentucky; the process equipment manufacturer Eriez Manufacturing; Taggart Global, an architecture and engineering firm specializing in coal plant design and construction; Indian coal producer Auroma Coke Limited (ACL); Sharpe International, which has expertise in building and operating coal plants in India; and Leonardo Technologies, which is experienced in assessing the impacts of various coal technologies on controlling greenhouse gas emissions.

One of the processes has already been tested successfully in the U.S. at pilot scale under the sponsorship of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). While the process is highly efficient in cleaning relatively coarse coals whose particle size is in the range of 80 to 6 mm, its efficiency deteriorates below the lower size limit. Therefore, a new method of dry cleaning finer coal will be explored in the India project. An earlier work also funded by the DOE will be the basis for developing this new process.

The project will promote rapid deployment of the dry beneficiation processes in India. In phase 1, a pilot-scale deshaling unit with a maximum capacity of five tons per hour will be constructed and installed at different mine sites and/or power plants. In phase 2, a detailed flow sheet and engineering diagrams will be developed to construct a full-scale proof-of-concept plant in India. The successful completion of phase 2 will constitute a fully operational and commercially viable installation of the proposed technology in India, said Yoon. This large-scale test work in phase 2 eliminates risks associated with scale-up and allows a proof-of-concept plant to serve as a model for future installations in India and abroad.

Upon completion of the plant, a detailed test program will be developed and carried out to fully define the operational capabilities of this technology and to establish design protocols for future installations in India.

Yoon, an internationally recognized expert in coal processing, is principal investigator for the project. He will be assisted by co-principal investigators at each of the three participating universities -- S. Bhattacharya, associate professor of electronics and instrumentation engineering at Indian School of Mines University; Rick Honaker, chair of the mining engineering department at the University of Kentucky; and G.H. Luttrell, the Massey Professor of mining and minerals engineering at Virginia Tech.


Contact: Susan Trulove
Virginia Tech

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