Anthracite is a type of coal that has the highest carbon content and the lowest moisture and ash content. Anthracite burns slowly and makes a good heating fuel for homes. The United States has about 7.3 billion tons of anthracite, most of which can be found in Pennsylvania.
Bituminous is a type of coal that contains very little moisture and has high heat value. It is used to generate electricity and to produce coke, a coal residue used in the steel industry. Bituminous coal is the most plentiful type in the United States.
Clean Coal Technology (CCT) program
The CCT program refers to a number of technological advances that make the burning process of coal cleaner by removing pollutants such as sulfur, nitrogen, and fly ash that can contaminate the air and water.
Coal is a burnable carbonaceous rock that contains large amounts of carbon. Coal is also a fossil fuel—a substance that contains the remains of plants and animals and that can be burned to release energy. Coal contains other elements such as hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen; has various amounts of minerals; and is itself considered to be a mineral of organic origin.
In a combined-cycle system, gas from heating coal operates a combustion turbine connected to a generator, and the exhaust gases from this turbine heat water that, in turn, operates a steam-powered generator.
An electrostatic precipitator is a device that gives coal dust particles an electric charge so they can be attracted to a collector plate. Electrostatic precipitators help prevent air pollution.
Fluidized-bed combustion (FBC)
FBC is a process of burning coal in which the coal is inserted in a bed of particles that are suspended in the air and that react with the coal to heat the furnace more cleanly. In FBC, coal is burned at a slightly lower temperature, which helps prevent some nitrogen oxide gases from forming.
Land reclamation is the process of protecting, restoring, and possibly even improving the land before, during, and after surface mining. As coal is removed from one section of a surface mine, the land at another part is returned, regraded, and replanted. In the end, this means that the land is preserved, nature has been protected, water and soil are conserved, and the land can be turned into productive farmland, forests, and lakes.
Lignite is a type of coal that contains a lot of moisture and ash and breaks apart easily. Of the four types, lignite has the lowest carbon content and heating value. Also called brown coal, lignite is used mainly at electricity-generating plants.
Peat is a soggy, spongelike material that forms from plants and trees after they die. Peat from plants and trees that died about 300 million years ago became buried and compressed under the earth’s surface over a long period of time. Over millions of years and through the forces of heat and pressure, the compressed peat became coal.
A slurry pipeline is a pipeline that transports coal that has been ground to a powder and mixed with water. A coal slurry pipeline connects a mine in Arizona with a power plant in Nevada.
Subbituminous is a type of coal that is dull black and has less moisture than lignite. Subbituminous is generally used to produce steam for electricity generation. Reserves of subbituminous coal are found mostly in western states and Alaska.
Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA)
The SMCRA, enacted in the late 1970s, is the first comprehensive national surface-mining law. Under the law, each state that establishes federally approved enforcement programs has the primary responsibility for enforcing mining regulations in the state. If a state lacks these programs, the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement in the U.S. Department of Interior implements the federal law.
Underground mining is used to extract coal that is deep beneath the surface or in seams exposed on hillsides. It involves drilling two openings called shafts into the coal bed—one to transport miners and equipment and the other to bring coal to the surface.
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