New research: Water replaces organic chemicals in method to clean steelmaking coal for testing

Vancouver, BC - February 7, 2018 -New research from Geoscience BC and the Canadian Carbonization Research Association (CCRA) is showing how replacing organic chemicals with water, a pail and some shaking could reduce risk and provide more accurate assessments when testing coal used in steelmaking.

The first phase of new research into the 'Roben Jig' process is now complete, with a second phase set to begin. Roben Jig is a method for cleaning metallurgical coal to verify quality for coke-making, which is vital in making steel. Coal is BC's largest export commodity, valued at over $3 billion annually(1).

Geoscience BC provided funding to the Canadian Carbonization Research Association (CCRA) to publish Producing Clean Coal from Western Canadian Coal Fields using the Water-based Roben Jig: a report that examines the effectiveness of the water-based Roben Jig method for washing core samples of raw metallurgical coal. Based on its success, a second phase will be funded in 2018 to further refine the method.

"In the first phase, we washed samples from BC coalfields using the Roben Jig method and the traditional float/sink method that uses carcinogenic chemicals," said Melanie Mackay, President of the Western Canadian Coal Society and Technical Member of the CCRA. "The water-based Roben Jig was successful in creating a clean coal sample similar to that of the float/sink method, and in some ways, even better."

The researchers washed raw coal samples collected from coalfields in northeast BC, between Prince George and Fort St John, and in southeast BC, east of Cranbrook, to compare the methods. For each of the samples tested, the Roben Jig was able to clean the coal to create a sample that offered the same or more realistic measures of the coal quality characteristics when compared to the float/sink based sample.

"We have shown that a simple water-based process can work well. Now we are looking at how to refine the process to make it even better," said Bruce Madu, Vice President, Minerals and Mining at Geoscience BC. "It is a great example of how the best innovation is often simple. As a bonus, the process can use smaller samples making it more potentially more portable and efficient."

View Roben Jig project page

About Geoscience BC

Geoscience BC is an independent, non-profit organization that generates earth science information in collaboration with First Nations, local communities, governments, academia and the resource sector. Our independent earth science enables informed resource management decisions. Geoscience BC gratefully acknowledges the financial support of the Province of British Columbia.