Coal is BC’s largest export commodity. In 2018, metallurgical and thermal coal production generated $6.31 billion dollars for BC (view report). Innovative technologies are needed to help this sector maintain its international competitiveness.
Samples of metallurgical coal — used to make coke, an essential ingredient in steel production — are ‘washed’ before quality testing in the laboratory. Coal from BC’s coal mines contains ash which must be removed to produce a clean sample for accurate coal and coke quality characterization. This step in the analysis process is vital to accurately assess the economic value of a deposit and must be reliable.
Currently, coal samples are analyzed using the float/sink method which uses organic liquids such as white spirit, perchloroethylene (PCE) and methylene bromide. These organic liquids can have a negative effect on testing coking coal quality and potentially expose laboratory technicians to carcinogenic materials.
An alternative and effective water-based washing method, that could provide comparable results to that from an industrial coal-washing plant, would remove the need to use organic liquids in the process and the associated health and environmental risks.