A varied energy source

Coal is a fossil fuel consisting mainly of carbonized, decayed, pre-historic plant matter. It is a common energy source in the steel industry to extract iron from iron ore, and in the cement production process.

The four main types of coal are lignite, sub-bituminous, bituminous, and anthracite. Each type has varying amounts of hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, sulphur, and carbon, and as a result they have different uses. Mined coal needs to be sorted, measured, analyzed, and blended to meet customer specifications.

Coal, including coal dust, can be hazardous to one’s health and to the environment, so precautions must be taken when working in the coal industry.

What’s it like to work in a coal mine?

The two-part Advancing Mining blog post, Working in the Coal Mine, describes two common mine environments, Room and Pillar Mining and Longwall Mining Operations, and the dangers that miners face.

Read the complete posts:
Working in the Coal Mine, Part 1
Working in the Coal Mine, Part 2

See coal production in action

Optimize production, meet customer specifications & improve safety

Coal mining yields products of variable composition and quality that must be accurately sorted, separated, and blended. The coal blending process mixes different quality coals to meet the specifications needed for the intended application. Blending decisions impact the total amount of each product a mine site is able to sell, the final sale value of the product, and customer satisfaction. 

Elemental coal analyzers are used by coal-fired power plants and coal producers to help proactively address process variations and ensure more consistent coal blends and improved fuel quality.

coal blending analysis

Elemental coal analyzers provide the composition (sulfur, ash, moisture, and calorific value) of coal in order to spot coal quality trends, track silo content, provide estimates of the coal quality about to enter a coal-fired boiler, and alert the plant to potential derate situations or potential emissions excursions. 

Read the article,   Ensuring Quality

coal blending

A power plant illustrates how utility companies are applying tools to control coal quality, increase the  availability of coal, and reduce the cost of generation without sacrificing boiler performance by blending low- and higher-grade coals.

Read the white paper,   1 + 1 = 3: More from Your Online Coal Analyzer

coal measurement

In addition to carbon and oxygen, other major components should be measured during coal analysis. These include heating value, Lbs S02, volatile matter, fixed carbon, and ash fusion temperature. Knowing these measurements in real time enables coal producers to control sorting and blending of coals to maximize coal resources, meet quality specifications, reduce shipment variability, control ash fusion, and control preparation plant performance.

Read the blog post, What Should a Coal Analyzer Measure? And Why?

quantify trace elements with XRF

Coal, similar to any other geological material, can contain trace elements such as antimony, arsenic, beryllium, cadmium, chromium, cobalt, copper, lead, manganese, molybdenum, nickel, vanadium, and zinc. Some of these trace elements are considered hazardous air pollutants.

Read the blog post, Can XRF Quantify Trace Elements in Coal Applications?

coal analyzer to reduce power outages

Officials at a Utah-based power generation plant wanted to reduce the number of forced outages caused by slagging—molten or partial melting pasty ash deposits that impact their boiler performance and reduce operating efficiency.

Read the case study,   Using an On-Line Elemental Coal Analyzer for Improved Boiler Efficiency

Combustion of coal releases nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, particulate matter (PM), mercury, and dozens of other substances known to be hazardous to human health. Source gas analyzers measure emissions gases to help comply with regulatory guidelines.

Visit the Source Gas Monitoring web page

mercury monitoring

Integrated mercury emissions monitoring systems measure elemental, ionic, and total mercury in exhaust stacks from coal-fired boilers, waste incinerators, cement kilns, and other industrial combustion sources, in order to help comply with the Clear Air Mercury Rule and the U.S. EPA Portland Cement Maximum Achievable Control Technology (MACT) rule.

Read the application note,   Mercury Monitoring in a Cement Kiln

benzene monitoring

Benzene is an aromatic hydrocarbon produced by burning natural products. It is a component of products derived from coal and petroleum, found in gasoline and other fuels. Short-term exposure to high levels of benzene can cause drowsiness, dizziness, unconsciousness, and even death. Governments worldwide mandate maximum allowable industrial exposure levels of benzene.

Read the application note,   Continuous Monitoring of Benzene, Toluene, Ethyl Benzene, and Xylenes (BTEX) in Air with the Thermo Scientific Sentinel PRO Environmental Mass Spectrometer

Moisture analyzers are used by mining and mineral processing companies to achieve:

  • Dust reduction by preconditioning bulk minerals with water addition. The key challenge is to add just enough water to achieve dust extinction but not so much that the ore becomes sticky and clogs chutes and blinds screens.
  • Specified moisture to meet customer requirements. Specific moisture content is needed for accurate metallurgical accounting, pelletizing and sintering applications, thermal power applications, and control of filter presses and centrifuges in dewatering applications.
coal moisture analysis

Because coal originated in wetlands, it contains varying amounts of moisture that dictate how the coal will be used. Mining companies know that moisture content is critical to the coal’s application and analyze moisture content to meet customer requirements.

Read the blog post, Is Your Coal Retaining Moisture?

dust buildup

A common method of dust control at mineral processing operations is the use of wet spray systems to add sufficient moisture to contain the dust. However, this method requires precise moisture measurement and careful adjustment. 

Read the blog post, Worried about Dust Buildup on your Bulk Minerals?

moisture analysis for dust management

Dalrymple Bay Coal Terminal manages 125 different types of coal, and each one has to be measured. Moisture measurement is a process control variable for optimum coal moisture control and dust suppression, so calibrations should be carefully done.

Read the blog post, Case Study: Using Moisture Analyzers for Site Dust Management at Dalrymple Bay Coal Terminal


Coal Workers’ Pneumoconiosis, more commonly known as CWP or black lung disease, is a devastating illness that can afflict anyone exposed to coal and crystalline silica dust. The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) considers respirable coal dust to be one of the most serious occupational hazards in the mining industry.

MSHA dust rule

Mining is a highly regulated industry requiring numerous tools and technologies to achieve compliance and keep operations running efficiently and profitably. The rule is meant to help decrease and eventually end black lung disease.

Read the blog posts:
Working in the Coal Mine – Avoiding Dust Inhalation

3-Part Series: An End to Black Lung Disease: How Close Are We?
Part 1: The Risk of Coal Dust Inhalation
Part 2: A Historical Look at Legislation
Part 3: Mine Safety and Health Facts Review

Personal dust monitor and TEOM technology

This full-color, 3" x 3" reflective sticker is the perfect addition to your hardhat. Sitckers are free of charge and should arrive 4-6 weeks of ordering.

Request a sticker ›

A belt scale system monitors feed to crushers, mills, screens, coal preparation plants, coal-fired power plants and other processes. It can monitor production output and inventory, or control product loadout, while providing vital information for the management and operation of your business.

Belt Scale Production Selection Guide ›

belt scale maitenance

Belt scale maintenance

Belt Scale Maintenance Checklist
This blog post presents a 29-point belt scale maintenance and calibration checklist to help keep your bulk material handling systems in balance.

Do Your Idler Rolls Meet the Minimum Run Out (T.I.R.) Tolerance?
Proper alignment of the “scale area” is paramount to satisfactory operation of a belt conveyor scale. Most scale manufacturers have established strict guidelines for installing and aligning belt conveyor scales. Failure to follow these guidelines may result in less than favorable scale accuracies and repeatability. This blog post offers recommendations to keep idlers aligned.

conveyor protection switches

Conveyor protection switches can help prevent accidents, protect equipment, and reduce unscheduled shutdowns, keeping production at its highest level.

There are three types of switches:

  • Belt misalignment switch, used to monitor the position and tracking of conveyor belts. 
  • Safety cable pull switch, an emergency shutdown device for conveyors or other equipment.
  • Tripper position switch, a heavy duty limit switch often used to indicate the position of a tripper on a conveyor with multiple discharge points.

Read the blog post, Stop The Conveyor!… by Using Conveyor Protection Switches

microwave technology

Microwave technology is used in two ways for measuring moisture content of various types of ores, coal and other minerals: reflection (or resonance), and transmission. Microwave moisture analyzers work on the principle that water has a higher dielectric constant compared to most other materials. When microwaves interact with water molecules within the material they slow down and weaken as the energy is transferred to the water.

Read the blog post, Microwave Technology Can Be Used to Measure Moisture Content of Ores, Coal and Other Minerals


Coal blending technology incorporates real time, online analysis using prompt gamma neutron activation analysis (PGNAA) technology to proactively address process variations and ensure more consistent coal blends and improved fuel quality. PGNAA is also a popular technology in cement production.

Learn more about how PGNAA and PFTNA technology works.

Gamma Radiation Safety Guide

Instruments and devices containing radioactive material are subject to regulation by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), an Agreement State, or in Canada, by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC). An Agreement State is a state with which the NRC has entered into a written agreement under Section 274(b) of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, as amended (see also Title10 CFR Part 150.15). 

Read the   Gamma Radiation Safety Guide

XRF technology

X-ray fluorescence (XRF) technology offers low limits of detection (LOD) for some elements, making it suitable for coal applications such as the quantification of major elements and using this data to calculate ash content of coal. As, Pb, and possibly S in some coal seams can be quantified by XRF. Hg and Se in coal are lower than their LOD by XRF.

Visit the XRF Technology ›

coal fly ash

Fly ash is a waste product of the coal burning process but it can be recycled and used to replace traditional cement. Over the past decade, fly ash recycling eliminated nearly a billion tons of greenhouse gas. Other environmental advantages include reduced mining, conservation of the traditional raw materials used to make cement, reduced landfill disposal, conservation of water, and reduced kilning.

Read the application note,   Analysis of Coal Fly Ash


During coal combustion, large amounts of ash are created along with carbon dioxide and other gases. The fine particle ash that rises up with the flue gases is known as fly or flue ash. The heavier ash that does not rise is called bottom ash. The chemical makeup of fly and bottom ash varies significantly and is dependent on the source and composition of the coal being burned. 

Read the application note,   Analysis of Coal and Coal Ash using ICP-OES