Canadian Black Gold
Coal is a combustible black or brownish-black sedimentary rock normally occurring in rock strata in layers or
veins called coal beds or coal seams. The harder forms, such as anthracite coal, can be regarded as metamorphic rock because of later
exposure to elevated temperature and pressure. Coal is composed primarily of carbon along with variable quantities of other elements,
chiefly sulfur, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen.
Coal begins as layers of plant matter that accumulates at the bottom of a body of water. For the process to continue the plant matter must
be protected from biodegradation and oxidization, usually by mud or acidic water. The wide shallow seas of the Carboniferous period
provided such conditions. This trapped atmospheric carbon in the ground in immense peat bogs that eventually were covered over and deeply
buried by sediments under which they metamorphosed into coal. Over time, the chemical and physical properties of the plant remains
(believed to mainly have been fern-like species antedating more modern plant and tree species) were changed by geological action to create
a solid material.
Coal, a fossil fuel, is the largest source of energy for the generation of electricity worldwide, as well as one of the largest worldwide
anthropogenic sources of carbon dioxide releases. Gross carbon dioxide emissions from coal usage are slightly more than those from
petroleum and about double the amount from natural gas. Coal is extracted from the ground by mining, either underground by shaft mining
through the seams or in open pits - Wikipedia.
Coal is classified into four main types, or ranks, anthracite,
bituminous, sub-bituminous, and lignite, depending on the amounts and types of carbon it contains and on the amount of heat energy it can
produce. The rank of a deposit of coal depends on the pressure and heat acting on the plant debris as it sank deeper and deeper over
millions of years. For the most part, the higher ranks of coal contain more heat-producing energy.
Anthracite contains 86-97 percent carbon, and generally has a heating value slightly higher than bituminous coal.
Bituminous coal contains 45-86% carbon. Bituminous coal was formed under high heat and pressure. Bituminous coal is between 100 to 300
million years old. Bituminous coal is used to generate electricity and is an important fuel and raw material for the steel and iron
Sub-bituminous coal has a lower heating value than bituminous coal. Sub-bituminous coal typically contains 35-45 percent carbon. Most
subbituminous coal is at least 100 million years old.
Lignite is the lowest rank of coal with the lowest energy content. Lignite coal deposits tend to be relatively young coal deposits that
were not subjected to extreme heat or pressure, containing 25-35 percent carbon. Lignite is crumbly and has high moisture content. Lignite
is mainly burned at power plants to generate electricity - Energy Kids.
The East Kootenay coal fields comprise three
separate fields extending from the Montana border northward and known respectively as Flathead, Crowsnest, and Elk Valley coal fields
containing several mines. These are the most important coal fields of British Columbia,
having produced, since 1898, over 500 million tonnes of mainly metallurgical coal. All three fields are underlain by the Jura-Cretaceous
Kootenay Group, which contains the 100 to 700 metres thick coal-bearing Mist Mountain Formation. Coal seams are found through out the
formation though the thicker seams occur lower in the section. The formation contains from 4 to over 30 seams, which make up from 8-12
percent of the thickness of the formation. Cumulative coal thickness ranges up to over 70 metres. The area has experienced moderate to
intense folding and thrust faulting, which has caused repetitions and structural thickening of seams. Rank varies from low to
high-volatile bituminous though most of the coal is medium-volatile bituminous and of metallurgical grade.
All the coal mined from the five open-pit mines in the East Kootenay coal fields is exported. In the south, in the
Crowsnest coal field, Fording Coal Limited owns and operates Coal Mountain Operations which in 2001 mined 2.4 million tonnes of
high-volatile bituminous weak coking coal. Most of the coal comes from a single seam near the base of the Mist Mountain Formation. The
Elkview Mine (formally the Balmer Mine) is owned and operated by the Teck
Corporation and is located in the northern end of the Crowsnest coal field. In 2001 the mine produced 5.6 million tonnes of medium-volatile hard coking coal, mainly from
the bottom four seams in the Mist Mountain Formation.
There are three mines in the Elk Valley Coal field. In the south the Line Creek Mine owned by Luscar Limited and operated by Line Creek
Resources Limited, in 1999 sold about 2.8 million tonnes of which about 0.5 million tonnes was thermal coal. The metallurgical coal is a
medium-volatile hard coking coal. In the northern part of the Elk Valley coal field, Fording Coal Limited owns and operates the Greenhills
Mine which produced 4.7 million tonnes of clean coal in 2001 and the Fording River mine (9.4 million tonnes of clean coal production in
2001). Both these mines produced coal from a large number of seams through a thick Mist Mountain section and consequently sell medium and
high-volatile coking coal - British Columbia Ministry of Energy and Mines.
The loading process at all of Teck Coal's operations is
monitored by a central computer which controls the automated system. Rail cars can be loaded to within 0.5 percent of their capacity to
prevent over or under-loading.
Access to Canadian Pacific Railway's system and the export port at Roberts Bank provides Teck Coal with one of the lowest cost transport
systems in the world, on a per-tonne-per-kilometre basis. Canadian Pacific uses 112-car unit trains to handle Fording's output, making a
round trip over the 1,175 kilometre-long journey from the East Kootenay mines to the coast in around 85 hours.
Roberts Bank, operated by Westshore Terminals, has an annual throughput capacity exceeding 22 million tons
and is the largest coal-loading port on the west coast of North America. Teck Coal has over 600,000 tons of storage capacity at Roberts Bank. Teck Coal also ships coal east by rail to
Thunder Bay terminals at the port of Thunder Bay, Ontario, while direct rail links to the central and eastern USA provide further access
to important markets for the company - Net Resources International.
A modern, enclosed, automated, dumper station controlled by one operator works both the twin rotary Dumper 31 and the single rotary Dumper 32. Coal car dumping is done by inversion without uncoupling
the rolling stock. Rotary couplers on each coal car permit a train to pass through the dumper at low speed without stopping. In 2008 one
of the dumper barrels in Dumper 31 was replaced in a change out that allows the twin dumper set to handle the shorter, lighter,
American-style aluminum coal cars two at a time. Two, fully-automated train indexers position the coal cars for dumping.
Dumper 31 - working in tandem, the two rotary dumper barrels can unload at a rate of 6,500 tonnes per hour. Both can handle aluminum coal
cars, and one of the barrels can still dump Canadian-style steel bathtub coal cars which are longer and heavier, but gradually being
phased out of service. Dumper 32 - a single rotary dumper capable of unloading at a rate of 4,000 tonnes per hour (tph) and can dump both
aluminum and bathtub coal cars.
Westshore Terminals processes coal trains from Canadian Pacific, Canadian National, and Burlington Northern Santa Fe. The unloading
system is subject to human error. On several occasions locomotives were damaged when caught in the single dumper.
Westshore Terminals has four stacker-reclaimers to service its stockpile area of 2.2 million tonnes. The big
machines operate in pairs on two stockpile lines and stack coal onto the piles, or reclaim it for specific ship loading needs. The newest
of the four, added in late 2009, stacks at 7,100 tph and reclaims at 4,600 tph.
Deep Sea Berths
Westshore's two deep-sea docks have the advantage of being ice-free, operate year-round, and offer all-tide sailings.
Berth One - The newer of the two berths was added in 1984. It is 350 metres long and has a draft of 22.9 metres (75 feet) enabling it to
handle the largest dry bulk vessels afloat up to 260,000 deadweight tonnes. A single, rail-mounted ship loader is capable of 7,000 tph. Berth Two - Westshore's original
dolphin-style dock was opened in 1970 and extends over 263 metres with a draft of 20.8m (68 feet). Storm damage in 2003 saw the
replacement of both of its quadrant ship loaders which now have a combined loading rate of 7,000 tph. The berth can handle vessels up to
170,000 deadweight tonnes - Westshore Terminals.
8 Nov 2010 - British Columbia Coal Exports Could Double with...
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Canadian Pacific Railway
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