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Anthracite Coal

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Anthracite Coal HSN: 27012010

A natural, solid, combustible material formed from prehistoric plant life, it occurs in layers or veins in sedimentary rocks. It is far more plentiful in the US than petroleum, and is an important source of heat and energy. It occurs chiefly in West Virginia and Kentucky, as well as in Wyoming and other western states. Much of it is too high in sulfur content to meet desirable pollution standards unless sulfur is re- moved by scrubbing.

Chemically, coal is a macromolecular network comprised of groups of polynuclear aromatic rings, to which are attached subordinate rings connected by oxygen, sulfur, and aliphatic bridges. This extended open structure is condu- cive to catalytic reactions, which in effect subdi- vide it into smaller molecules that can be defined readily.

Coal is an important source of chemical raw materials: pyrolysis (destructive distillation) yields coal tar and hydrocarbon gases which can be upgraded by hydrogenation or methanation to synthetic crude oil and fuel gas respectively. Catalytic hydrogenation yields hydrocarbon oils and gasoline. Gasification produces carbon monoxide and hydrogen (synthesis gas), from which ammonia and other products can be made.

Numerous processes for adapting these reactions to large-scale production of fuel oil and gasoline have been developed in the US, but none has yet proved economically successful. The process is being used abroad (Lurgi and Sasol methods).
See also gasification, hydrogenolysis, hydrosolva- tion, peat, lignite.

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