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Published: Kem. Ind. 53 (12) (2004) 557–565
Paper reference number: KUI-26/2003
Paper type: Review
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Sulphur in Coal

A. Rađenović


The presence of sulphur in coal possesses important environmetal problems in its usage. The sulphur dioxide (S02) emissions produced during coal combustion account for a significant proportion of the total global output of anthropogenic SO2. The extent of sulphur separation depends on several variables such as the form of sulphur in coal, intimacy of contact between minerals and the products of devolatilization. The total sulphur in coal varies in the range of 0.2—11 wt %, although in most cases it is beetwen 1 and 3 wt %. Sulphur occurs in a variety of both inorganic and organic forms. Inorganic sulphur is found mainly as iron pyrite, marcasite, pyrrhotite, sphalerite, galena, chalcopirite and as sulphates (rarely exceeds w = 0,1 %). Organic sulphur is found in aromatic rings and aliphatic functionalities usually as mercaptans, aliphatic and aryl sulfides, disulfides and thiophenes. Organic and pyritic sulphur quantities depend on coal rank. Higher rank coals tend to have a high proportion of labile sulphur. All the organic sulphur is bivalent and it is spread throughout the organic coal matrix. Sulphur occurs in all the macerals and most minerals. Vitrinite contains the major part of organic sulphur and metals. Elemental sulphur is produced during coal weathering. The depolymerization methods as pyrolysis and hydrogenation are very drastic methods wich change the structure of the coal and the sulphur groups. In the case of pyrolysis, high levels of desulphurization, in chars and additional production of liquid hydrocarbon can be achieved. Thiophenes and sulphides were the major sulphur components of tars from coal pyrolysis. Hyrdogen sulphide and the lower mercaptans and sulphides were found in the volatile matters. Hydrogen sulphide and thiophenes are practically the only sulphur products of coal hydrogenation. H2S is produced in char hydrodesulphurization. A number of options are available for reducing sulphur emissions including the utilisation of coals with low sulphur concentrations (typically < 1 wt %), the removal of cleaning prior to utilisation. The methods for the removal of sulphur from coal can be divided into: physical, chemical and microbiological. The mineral sulphur components can be removed or reduced by commercial methods of coal washing, flotation and agglomeration. A number of chemical desulphurization for the removal of, both, pyritic and organic sulphur have been advocated. The chemical desulphurization methods however, have two major drawbacks. Namely, they are often expensive and they destroy the caking properties of coal. Certain microorganisms have been used to consume or convert selectively most of the pyritic sulphur as well as some of the organic sulphur in coal. The process is also cheaper than chemical desulphurization and does not affect the caking properties of coking coal.

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coal, sulphur, reactions, desulphurization