(EnergyAsia, August 29 2012, Wednesday) — Australia’’ science agency CSIRO and Germany’s chemical giant BASF have jointly developed a process that improves the recovery of coal particles, thus making coal production more efficient and lucrative.

According to BASF, CSIRO’s coal grain analysis tool had found that particles of some coal types were difficult to recover from flotation methods.

BASF said the introduction of its block copolymers as promoters to the fine coal slurry boosted yields, with the potential to significantly increase the availability of saleable product coal.

According to the results of laboratory studies and plant scale tests, the block copolymers improved recovery for both fine and coarse coal particles.

The new process requires only minor modifications to existing industry methods and BASF is in the process of commercialising the flotation promotion agent.

The research project was supported by the Australian coal industry’s research programme is aimed at developing technology for the sustainable production and utilisation of coal.

“High quality coking coal is a key ingredient for steel production and critical for the development of the emerging economies of Asia,” says Neil Fitzmaurice, head of BASF’s Industry Group Mining Asia Pacific.

“This new coal particle recovery process offers a significant improvement in the recovery of coal, maximising yield and lowering production cost.”

Coal is naturally hydrophobic and froth flotation is a recognised process in recovering fine coal. However, there are significant variations in the reactions of different types of coal.

Bruce Firth, CSIRO’s Research Manager for Coal Preparation, said:

“We can determine the flotation response of specific coal types by the coal grain analysis method. The introduction of BASF’s novel chemical reagent into the process increases the attachment of particular coal particles to the flotation bubbles.”