Structural Differences of Spontaneous Combustion Prone Inertinite-Rich Chinese Lignite Coals: Insights from XRD, Solid-State 13 C NMR, LDIMS, and HRTEM

Yu Zhang, Xueqing Zhang, Qifan Zhong, Sherong Hu, Jonathan P. Mathews

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China has a considerable lignite deposit in the Xinjiang province, but surface and underground coal seam fires pose a threat to the resources, environment, economy, and health. As the chemical and physical structure impacts coal fire propensity and behavior, two raw Xinjiang lignites were examined from the Shaerhu (SEH) and Piliqing (PLQ) Collieries. The SEH lignite is more prone to spontaneous combustion (from regional observations). These coals were of the same geological age and were both inertinite-rich 69.8 and 95.6% for SEH and PLQ, respectively (by the point counting approach). The more spontaneous combustion prone lignite had a significantly higher micropore contribution and surface area (92.4% and 195.6 m 2 /g), while both coals had similar micro- and mesopore size distribution ranges. Despite being classified as lignite by the mean vitrinite random reflectance (R r , 0.30 and 0.26%) the inertinite contribution displaces some of the structural properties to be similar to the vitrinite-rich, high-volatile bituminous rank. The lignite coals had similar carbon content (74.6 and 78.4 wt % for SEH and PLQ) and vitrinite reflectance but differed in ash, volatile matter, total moisture, and fixed carbon yields. The crystallite parameters [from X-ray diffraction (XRD)], the interlayer spacing, crystallite height, crystallite diameter, and the numbers of aromatic layer indicated the more inertinite-rich coal (PLQ) was slightly less ordered. Both coals were highly aromatic for lignites (f a ' values of 0.72 and 0.71 for SEH and PLQ), as the inertinite-rich components are more aromatic and polycondensed than huminite-rich (a low rank counterpart of vitrinite) coals of similar reflectance values. Image analysis of high-resolution transmission electron microscopy lattice fringes determined the aromatic fringe length distributions, with contributions between 0.25 and 0.50 nm accounting for 37.1% for PLQ, while SEH had a lower contribution of 28.0% but also a greater contribution of longer fringes (larger polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon cluster sizes). Image analysis of the lattice fringe orientation and XRD analysis also indicated that the SEH lignite was more ordered. These two coals are potential coals for further exploration of spontaneous combustion behavior for inertinite-rich coals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4575-4584
Number of pages10
JournalEnergy and Fuels
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 16 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Chemical Engineering
  • Fuel Technology
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology


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