The U.S. Geological Survey and the University of Kentucky Center for Applied Energy Research are collaborating with an Indiana utility company to determine the physical and chemical properties of feed coal and coal combustion products from a coal-fired power plant. The Indiana power plant utilizes a low-sulfur (0.23 to 0.47 weight percent S) and lowash (4.9 to 6.3 weight percent ash) subbituminous coal from the Wyodak-Anderson coal zone in the Tongue River Member of the Paleocene Fort Union Formation, Powder River Basin, Wyoming.
Based on scanning electron microscope and X-ray diffraction analyses of feed coal samples, two mineral suites were identified: (1) a primary or detrital suite consisting of quartz (including beta-form grains), biotite, feldspar, and minor zircon; and (2) a secondary authigenic mineral suite containing alumino-phosphates (crandallite and gorceixite), kaolinite, carbonates (calcite and dolomite), quartz, anatase, barite, and pyrite. The primary mineral suite is interpreted, in part, to be of volcanic origin, whereas the authigenic mineral suite is interpreted, in part, to be the result of the alteration of the volcanic minerals. The mineral suites have contributed to the higher amounts of barium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, sodium, strontium, and titanium in the Powder River Basin feed coals in comparison to eastern coals.
X-ray diffraction analysis indicates that (1) fly ash is mostly aluminate glass, perovskite, lime, gehlenite, quartz, and phosphates with minor amounts of periclase, anhydrite, hematite, and spinel group minerals; and (2) bottom ash is predominantly quartz, plagioclase (albite and anorthite), pyroxene (augite and fassaite), rhodonite, and akermanite, and spinel group minerals. Microprobe and scanning electron microscope analyses of fly ash samples revealed quartz, zircon, and monazite, euhedral laths of corundum with merrillite, hematite, dendritic spinels/ferrites, wollastonite, and periclase. The abundant calcium and magnesium mineral phases in the fly ash are attributed to the presence of carbonate, clay, and phosphate minerals in the feed coal and their alteration to new phases during combustion.
The amorphous diffraction-scattering maxima or glass 'hump' appears to reflect differences in chemical composition of fly ash and bottom ash glasses. In Wyodak-Anderson fly and bottom ashes, the center point of scattering maxima is due to calcium and magnesium content, whereas the glass 'hump' of eastern fly ash reflects variation in aluminum content.
The calcium- and magnesium-rich and alumino-phosphate mineral phases in the coal combustion products can be attributed to volcanic minerals deposited in peat-forming mires. Dissolution and alteration of these detrital volcanic minerals occurred either in the peat-forming stage or during coalification and diagenesis, resulting in the authigenic mineral suite.
The presence of free lime (CaO) in fly ash produced from Wyodak-Anderson coal acts as a self-contained 'scrubber' for SO3, where CaO + SO3 form anhydrite either during combustion or in the upper parts of the boiler. Considering the high lime content in the fly ash and the resulting hydration reactions after its contact with water, there is little evidence that major amounts of leachable metals are mobilized in the disposal or utilization of this fly ash.