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Spontaneous Coal Combustion Part 2: Chemical Inhibitors

Chris Raymond

 

 

This blog post is part two of a three-part series on spontaneous coal combustion.  In this post, we focus on preventative measures and controls, and in the upcoming post we’ll take a look at best practices. Click Here to Read Part 1: A Burning Mystery to review history and research on the topic.

 

Anyone who has worked with Powder River Basin (PRB) coal knows how susceptible it is to spontaneous combustion. It is not a matter of if it will catch fire, but when. With so many coal-fired power plants switching to PRB coal due to its low-sulfur properties to meet tighter emission regulations, many utilities are facing newer storage and handling challenges, with fires being a primary concern. Thus, early detection and prevention of spontaneous coal combustion is of great value to industry.

Spontaneous Coal Combustion Part 1: A Burning Mystery

Chris Raymond

 

This blog post is part one of a three-part series on spontaneous coal combustion.  In this post, we focus on the history and research, and in the upcoming posts we’ll take a look at preventative measures and best practices.

 

When coal burns, it releases carbon dioxide, water, heat, sulfur, particulate matter, and other compounds into the air, while leaving behind ash that is laden with silica, mercury, cadmium, arsenic, and other compounds.  When this combustion occurs inside a controlled environment under controlled conditions, such as in a coal-fired power plant, the emissions can be scrubbed of toxins and the ash can be contained and properly managed.  However, when this combustion occurs in uncontrolled environments (i.e. coal mines, piles, silos, barges, seams, etc.), these toxins are freely released into the environment.  While the direct casualties and damages of these fires are relatively small, the indirect and cumulative effects of this uncontrolled burning of coal are monumental.  So, what causes this uncontrolled burning?