The importance and recent advances in geological coal quality studies in Alberta
The successful marketing of Alberta coals will increasingly depend, to a large degree, on an extensive coal quality information base. This information, at present, is generally based on a deliverable, cleaned coal and is confined to existing minesites. Coal quality information is not as well understood for raw in situ coal outside of minesites and even less is known about the geological factors that control it.
If new uses and markets for Alberta coal are to be developed, such as gasification, coprocessing, and exploiting high rank coals for combustion, it will be imperative that the coal quality parameters important for these utilizations be known. These parameters need to be known for existing deliverable coals and, just as important, for as yet unexploited in situ coal. Factors such as the Cl, Na, K, Ca, P and trace element contents should be addressed to meet the requirements of these new utilizations.
The geological characterization and explanation of what factors control these coal quality parameters is part of research being done at the Alberta Geological Survey. In-seam vertical profiling has been undertaken within the plains and foothills/mountains coals to determine exactly where coal quality variations occur and why. In the Ardley coal zone at the Highvale Mine it has been found, for example, that the ash content of the mined coal is made up of discrete partings and of microsized particles associated with inertinite macerals. The in-seam characterization of coal seams will lead to a better understanding of in situ coal quality variations, leading to new uses and markets for Alberta coal.
Coal quality, In-seam variations, Alberta, Coal utilization.