What is coking coal and what does it play in to our modern energy mix? Coking coal, sometimes called metallurgical coal or thermal coal, is utilized to make coke, among the primary irreplaceable fuel ingredients for the manufacture of steel. There are several types of coal on the planet, ranging from lignite or brown coal to anthracite. Not all of these types are of equal importance or have the same useful properties.
Brown coking coal is generally considered to be lower quality than anthracite and thermal coal. This lower quality material results in higher pollutants and particulate matter, which is ultimately discharged into our streams and lakes, and into our environment. Many environmental groups and politicians from both sides of the aisle have been vocal in their criticism of this practice and the emissions that come with it.
One of the most significant disadvantages of using metallurgical coke as a fuel source is its byproduct, known as “tar dust.” This black dust, which can settle deep within the impure pores of pre-fabricated steel tanks, has been known to severely compromise the structure of pre-made steel tanks. The resulting situation is a catastrophic leak, which contaminates the surrounding environment and can cause an accident, or a catastrophic release of corrosive acid into the soil, and nearby water supplies. Tar dust, which can settle in even shallow streams and lakes, poses an immediate threat to people and wildlife who wade and fish in these bodies of water.
While many environmentalists and politicians decry the practice of using lignite or anthracite as a fuel ingredient, there are certain aspects of these types of coals that merit a closer look. For example, despite the objections expressed by both environmentalists and politicians, coking ovens burn more efficiently than standard wood-burning stoves. They also produce less smoke and soot, reducing the chance of a harmful buildup of toxins within residential and commercial spaces. Furthermore, the byproducts of burning coking coal do not pose a serious health risk to consumers.
Before describing the differences between coking processes and other types of furnace, it is important to identify what the coking process actually is. Essentially, it is the process of heating raw materials at elevated temperatures in order to achieve metamorphic reactions that result in the production of gases called hydrocarbons and carbon dioxide. The most commonly used coking process in the USA is the blast furnace, which uses high heat to fuse bituminous coal into liquid fuels. This process does not produce significantly higher levels of greenhouse gases than a standard wood stove, and the emissions produced are not considered particularly harmful to the environment. However, some argue that while the blast furnace is efficient and effective, it is not as clean or efficient as the coking process because the exhaust is not trapped or contained.
Today, there are a number of different ways to improve on the efficiency and quality of coking coal. One of these is through the use of double paned glass coiling. This is achieved through the application of a thin layer of glass over the top of a group of coiled coking coal. By doing so, the unblocked chimneys that were created by the steam pressure within the steam chamber remain free to function properly. By removing the air that causes black streaks and smoke within the coiled coals, the resulting product is considered to be much cleaner and safer than the originalcoal and oil-based coiling methods.
An alternative to using unblocked chimneys is the use of uncoiled steel coils. In these cases, the coiling process itself is not necessary, and the resulting product can be considered to be significantly cleaner and more efficient than its oil-based counterparts. Because the design does not include the containment of air, the steel industry has adapted the use of this product in place of coking coal used in older steel production plants. The resulting product possesses similar qualities to met coal and can be used in a variety of applications including oil wells, steam turbines, and other similar machinery.
Met Coal is generally used for a variety of applications in several industries. It was once thought to be the strongest and most efficient source of power, however in 2021 the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that the popular fuel’s safety had been questioned, after an investigation showed that up to one million Americans were working in places where the fuel was present, and many of them were not wearing the appropriate safety equipment. Subsequently, the EPA banned the use of met coal and directed companies to only use washery grade coals. Washery grade refers to coals that are manufactured to be thicker and heavier than standard coals, which will allow for a higher performance washer compared to the standard coal.