Modelling Spontaneous Combustion of Coal


Abstract: Spontaneous combustion of coal is an important problem in mining and storage, in terms of both safety and economics. This is because coal reacts with oxygen in the air and an exothermic reaction occurs, even in ambient conditions. The heat of the reaction accumulates and the reaction becomes progressively faster and thermal runaway may take place to the point of ignition. A detailed computer model has been developed to simulate a bulk-scale, one-dimensional test column. Predictions from this model can then be used to simulate full-scale storage conditions. Model predictions are verified by using the experimental results from the test column at the University of Queensland. A 2-m column is being used in this laboratory to conduct a practical test capable of providing reliable data on coal self-heating. Coal self-heating results produced with the 2-m column are consistent with theory. In particular, the hot spot development in test runs closely matches model predictions. Features of moisture transfer and hot spot migration are clearly visible, both in the model and in tests in the column. Under the specific conditions considered in this study, it is shown that a subbituminous coal can reach thermal runaway in 4.5 days. This result is confirmed by observations made at the mine site, where hot spots have been found to occur within this timeframe. The results obtained in this study indicate that there is a definite need to consider the influence of coal moisture on spontaneous combustion.

Keywords: Spontaneous combustion, Callide coal, Hot spot development, Moisture transfer

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