The quality of Western Canadian coking coal

CIM Bulletin, Vol. 73, No. 813, 1980

DAVID E. PEARSON British Columbia Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources Victoria, British Columbia

Western Canadian coking coals are located in the Rocky Mountains arid foothills of British Columbia and Alberta. They are typical of non-marine coals, characterized by total sulphur contents of less than one per cent and with ash contents of10-30 weight per cent. This mineral matter is composed principally of kaolinite and quartz.The petrographic compositions of most of the coking coals which constitute the 2.065 billion tonnes of British Columbia's measured reserves, and the compositions of the metallurgical coal currently exported from Alberta, show them to be rich in the inertinite macerals, macrinite, fusinite and semifusinite. When the mean maximum reflectance of vitrinite in oil (R0 max) is used as the coal rank parameter, this high inertinite content is reflected in the lower volatile-matter yields, but the relatively inert character is also displayed by lower free swelling indices (FSI), lower maximum dilatations, lower maximum fluidities and lower coke strengths than other coals of the same rank, but richer in the reactive macerals, vitrinite, exinite and semifusinite. Despite these reduced values in the so-called caking tests, inertinite-rich coals produce strong coke.A system of classification of coking coals is introduced which is based on rank, as indicated by Ro max, and either petrographic composition, maximum dilatation, maximum fluidity or, to a lesser extent, FSI and volatile-matter yield. Six principal coal groups can be distinguished among coking coals using this versatile classification. Inertinite-rich coals are assigned to the Keystone Group (Gl), Balmer Group (G3) or Moura Group (G4), each group being named for a coal typical of that population of coals. Reactive-rich coals are assigned to the Pittston Group (G2), Kellerman Group (GS) or Big Ben Group (G6). A multiple-regression analysis of coal quality versus price shows how the value of coking coal in the Japanese market appears to be related to reflectance and the free swelling index, and confirms the economic viability of the classification.British Columbia's measured reserves of coking coal contain representatives of four of these groups; Balmer Group (73%), Moura Group (16%), Pittston Group (3.4%) and Kellerman Group (7.6%).This analysis of the quality of Western Canadian coking coal indicates that despite the need for large proportions of inertinite-rich coking coal in blends produced in the Japanese steel industry, there is nevertheless a demonstrated overabundance of Balmer Group and Moura Group coals available to the international coking coal market.
Keywords: Coal, Western Canada, Coking coal, British Columbia, Alberta, Keystone Group, Balmer Group, Moura Group, Pittston Group, Kellerman Group, Big Ben Group, Coal composition, Coal rank, Petrography.