Journal of Minerals & Materials Characterization & Engineering, Vol. 10, No.1, pp.101-1 09, 2011 Printed in the USA. All rights reserved
Quality of Some Nigerian Coals as Blending Stock in Metallurgical Coke
1M. B. Nasirudeen, 2A. Jauro*
1Department of Chemistry, Kaduna State University, P.M.B 2339, Kaduna, Nigeria
2Chemistry Programme, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, PMB 248, Bauchi, Nigeria
*Corresponding Author:
Two Nigerian coals, Lafia-Obi and Chikila were blended in the mass ratio of 70:30 with
imported American and Polish coking coals. Proximate analysis, free swelling index, Ruhr
dilatometer and Gieseler plastometer were used in assessing the coking qualities of both the
single coals and the blends. The results show that the blends are lower in moisture and ash
contents; higher in volatile matter and fixed carbon than the single Nigerian coals. The
rheological parameters revealed superiority in thermo-plastic properties of the blends over the
unblended local coals. Lafia-Obi/Foreign coals blends possess lower ash and better rheological
properties compared to Chikila/Foreign coal composites which have high ash and poor
rheological properties. These together suggest that amongst the two Nigerian coals, Lafia-Obi is
superior for blending w it h t h e f o r ei g n ones in metallurgical coke production.
Keywords: coking coals; blending; Nigeria
The importance of coal in the energy mix of Nigeria and the entire world cannot be
underestimated. Coal was first discovered in Nigeria near Udi, by the Mineral Survey of
Southern Nigeria in 1909 and its belt spans through a considerable part of the country [1]. The
actual production commenced in 1916 with 24 000 tons for that year and recorded a cumulative
output of 22.9 million tons by 1967 when production ceased as a result of the Nigerian Civil War
[2]. Since then production has been epileptic. Presently the only exploited coal deposits are those
of Okaba, Onyeama, Okpara and Okwukpa which are mainly used for combustion purposes [3].
102 M. B. Nasirudeen and A. Jauro Vol.10, No.1
Coking coal is required for coke and can serve the blast furnace of Ajaokuta Steel Company. But
most of the Nigerian coals are non-coking types [4]. As part of the Nigerian government
economic reform, the Federal Ministry of Solid Minerals Development was established and coal
was listed as one of the priority minerals targeted for exploration and exploitation, for export and
domestic consumption.
Coal can transform into coke only if it softens to a plastic mass on carbonization, followed by
decomposition, swelling and evolution of gas and finally resolidification while gas is still being
evolved [5]. The quality of coal determines to a large extent the quality of the resulting coke.
Some coals possessing some of the coking properties may be lacking in others, and even
detrimental to the coke ovens. In the past coke-makers relied on medium-volatile bituminous
coals [6], but due to their scarcity and high price, coking coals of this rank are typically used as
a ‘base’ in blends, to which coals of differing rank and chemical properties are added, such that,
overall, the blend achieves the required coke quality [7,8,9]. Impurities present in coal would end
of in coke and this would affect its performance in the blast furnace. This is by decreasing its
role as a fuel in terms of amount of carbon available for direct and indirect reduction roles and
also its role as a permeable support. Such impurities are moisture, volatile matter, ash, sulfur,
phosphorous, and alkali contents [10]. Their desired contents can be achieved easily by suitably
proportioning different coals in the blend. Impurities like sulfur, phosphorous and alkalis in coke
can be minimized by limiting these constituents in the individual coals. One measure of coal’s
ability to make quality coke is fluidity, a test which measures the rheological properties [11].
These properties can be studied during coke formation by monitoring the length of a pressed
specimen of powdered coal in a dilatometer, such as the Audibert-Arnu or the Ruhr dilatometer,
or by measuring the viscosity, or fluidity, of a pressed coal powder in a Gieseler or Hoehne
plastometer as the coal is heated over its carbonization range. Note is taken of the temperature at
which critical stages of the carbonization process are reached and of the degree of change, such
as contraction, expansion, or fluidity, which develops in the material as the coke is formed.
These data can then be used in various ways to assess the suitability of a coal or blend of coals
for coke manufacture.
In the search for a Nigerian coking coal, Aderonpe [12] carried out the assessment of blends of
high volatile (30% - 36%) bituminous coals with low volatile (<20%) bituminous. In another
investigation, Onyeama and Okaba coals were reported to be poorly caking, while Lafia/Obi as
weakly caking [13]. The Cakability of Enugu coal blended with some imported coals was also
studied [13].
This paper reports the blending and quality assessment of some Nigerian coals with American
and Polish coking coals. Some parameters that determined coking quality like the proximate
analysis, free swelling index, Ruhr dilatometer and Gieseler plastometer were used in accessing
the suitability of the blends for metallurgical coke production.
Vol.10, No.1 Quality of Some Nigerian Coals 103
The coal samples were obtained from the National Metallurgical Development Centre (NMDC),
Jos, Nigeria. The local coals were Chikila and Lafia-Obi (Lafia); while the foreign ones were
American and Polish coking coals. The samples were pulverized and sieved using a 200 mesh
British standard. A 70:30 mass ratio of foreign to a local coal were used in the blends. The major
instruments used for the analysis were Leco Digital Balance LECO 250, Gray King Furnace
11/81/1085, Ruhr Dilat ometer 205DIG, G ieseler Plastometer 42000/A4 and a Phoenix furnace.
3.1 Proximate Analysis
Proximate analyses of the coals were performed based on ASTM Standards [14]. All runs were
repeated to check the instrument’s results repeatability and reproducibility.
3.2 Free Swelling Index Determination
1g of coal sample was taken into a porcelain crucible; it was covered and heated for seven (7)
minutes on a Bunsen burner. After cooling, the bottom cake was compared with a standard
3.3 Gray King (Coke Type) Determination
10g of the sample was spread over a 15cm length horizontally placed retort tube. The tube’s end
was sealed with cotton wool and transferred into a furnace set at an initial temperature of 325oC.
The temperature was gradually increased to 600oC. The retort was removed after 15 minutes and
allowed to cool. The carbonized coal in the retort was compared with the standard Gray King
3.4 Ruhr Dilatometric and Gieseler Plastometric Properties
The Ruhr Dilatometric and Gieseler Plastometric Properties were determined based on ASTM
The results obtained from the proximate analysis of the individual coals and those of the blends
are shown on Table 1. The moisture and ash contents of Lafia-Obi (2.91%; 8.7%) and Chikila
104 M. B. Nasirudeen and A. Jauro Vol.10, No.1
coals (5.82%; 14.9%) are higher than the American (1.07%; 5.77%) and Polish coals (0.58%;
4.79%). On blending, a reduction in moisture and ash contents of the blends compared to the
single Nigerian coals was observed. The reduction in moisture content represents a significant
improvement in coal’s quality because moisture affects the calorific value and the concentration
of other constituents [15]. Likewise the reduction in ash content is an improvement on the coking
quality, low ash content is an essential requirement for coke making coals. Because some of the
ash would end up in the coke on carbonization, in the blast furnace, the ash influences slag
volume and composition. An ash content of less than 10% is recommended for a good coking
coal [16]. Industrial experience indicates that a 1 wt. % increase of ash in the coke reduces metal
production by 2 or 3 wt. % [10].
Table 1: Proximate analysis of the coal samples showing the mo is t ur e, ash, volatile matter and
fixed carbon contents of the single coals and the blends.
e analysis Lafi
a Chikila American Polish Lafia/American Lafia/Polish Chikila/America
n Chikila/Polish
(wt %)
2.91 5.82 1.07 0.58 2.31 2.09 4.38 4.23
matter (%
29.37 44.27 31.36 32.61 29.97 30.34 40.40 40.77
content (%
8.70 14.90 5.77 4.79 7.82 7.53 12.16 11.87
The volatile matter of Chikila coal (44.27%) is higher than that of Lafia-Obi (29.39%), American
(31.36%) and the Polish coal (32.61%). Lafia-Obi has the lowest volatile matter amongst all the
coal samples. The volatile matter of Lafia-Obi coal is close to that of the foreign coals; while a
large difference exists between Chikila coal and the foreign ones. It was observed elsewhere that
the Lafia-Obi coal is higher in maturity than the Chikila coal [17] and volatile matter is known to
decrease with increase in rank [18,19]. Therefore it is not surprising that the volatile matter of
Lafia-Obi is lower than that of Chikila. The volatile matter of the Lafia-Obi/Foreign coals blends
are close to that of the single Lafia-Obi coal while the volatile matter of the Chikila/Foreign
coals blends is slightly lower than that of Chikila and significantly higher than those of foreign
coals. Volatile matter, apart from its use in coal ranking, is one of the most important parameters
used in determining their suitable applications [20]. Volatile matter does not form part of the
coal; it is usually evolved as tar during carbonization. High-volatile bituminous coal due to its
high volatile matter content generates high pressure during carbonization which is detrimental to
the coke oven walls [4,7,21]. Therefore the Lafia/Foreign coal blends may be expected to have
better coking qualities than the Chikila/Foreign coal blends.
Vol.10, No.1 Quality of Some Nigerian Coals 105
The fixed carbons of the Lafia-Obi (61.93%) and Chikila (40.83%) coals are lower than that of
American (62.87%) and Polish (62.60%) coals. There is no significant difference between the
fixed carbon content of Lafia-Obi and the foreign coals and a large difference between the fixed
carbon content of Chikila and the foreign coals. The fixed carbon content of Lafia-Obi/American
(62.21%), Lafia-Obi/Polish (62.13%), Chikila/American (47.77%) and Chikila/Polish (47.69%)
are generally higher than the single Nigerian coals. These show an improvement in the fixed
carbon content hence the coking quality. The carbon content of a coal is essential in coke making
because it is the mass that form the actual coke [19]. The Lafia-Obi/Foreign coals blends have
higher carbon content and may form better coke than the Chikila/Foreign coals blends.
Table 2 shows the free swelling indices (FSI) of the single coals and the blends. The crucible
swelling number depends on both rank and coal type. If a single coal is to be used for coke
manufacture, an intermediate value (4-6) for this parameter is probably desirable, since a coal
with a low swelling number will have adequate porosity, while one with a high swelling number
will not have adequate strength [5,19]. Lafia-Obi, American and Polish coals show an
agglomeration behavior with free swelling indices of 4½, 4½ and 6; and a corresponding Gray –
King Coke types of G3, G2 and G3 respectively. Chikila coal is of poor caking quality with FSI of
½ and Gray-King coke profile of A, the profile is non-coherent. The Free Swelling Index and
Gray King coke types of the all the blends are greater than those of the single Nigerian coals with
the exception of Lafia/American blend which remain the same (FSI = 4½; Gray-king coke type =
G3). The highest improvement is observed between Chikila coal and the Chikila/Polish
composite, the FSI improved from ½ to 1½ and Gray-king coke type from A to C.
Table 2: Free swelling index, Gray King coke types and Ruhr dilatometric properties of
both the single coals and the blends.
Parameters Free
g index
Ruhr Dilatometric Properties
. oC
g Temp.
n Temp. oC
n Temp. oC
n Temp.
n (%)
n (%)
Lafia 4½ G3 300 340 420 407 486 9 -6 3
Chikila ½ A 300 340 350 425 442 Nil -9 3
American 4½ G2 330 370 410 468 468 16 -30 3
Polish 6 G3 350 386 390 424 440 119 -29 3
Lafia/American 4½ G3 320 360 420 435 476 12 -8 3
Lafia/PolishL 4½ G4 317 364 420 432 477 38 -5 3
Chikila/American 1 B 310 350 365 430 450 4 -14 3
Chikila/Polish 1½ C 315 355 362 425 442 18 -12 3
106 M. B. Nasirudeen and A. Jauro Vol.10, No.1
The Ruhr Dilatometric Properties of the coal samples are also shown in Table 2. It can be seen
that the Lafia/Obi coals softens at 340oC and contracts maximally at 467oC with maximum
dilation of 9%. This is a good plasticity behavior expected of a coking coal; the value is also in
agreement with the observed FSI. On the other hand, Chikila coal also softens at 340oC with a
maximum contraction temperature of 425oC and zero dilation. American coal and Polish coal
softened at 370oC and 386oC with maximum dilatation temperatures of 468oC and 440oC and
maximum dilatation of 119% and 16% respectively. The softening temperature, contraction
temperature and dilation of the blends are generally greater than those of the Nigerian coals
(Table 2). Amongst the blends Chikila/Polish recorded the highest dilation value of 38% which
represent a 26% increase over that of single Lafia-Obi coal. Chikila coal which shows no dilation
at all, recorded dilation values of 4% and 18% on blending with American and Polish coals
Gieseler plastometric properties of the coals and the blends are shown in Table 3. Lafia-Obi and
Chikila coal soften at 330 °C and 270 ºC, reaching a maximum fluidity of 310 ddpm and 298
ddpm at a temperature of 367 ºC and 340 °C respectively.
Table 3: Gieseler plastometric properties of the single coals and the blends
Parameter Lafia Chikila FAM FPL Lafia/FAM Lafia/FPL Chikila/FAM Lafia/FPL
temperature oC 330 270 390 395 348 350 306 308
Max. fluidity
temp. oC 367 340 435 445 388 391 369 372
Max. fluidity
(DDPM) 310 298 342 456 320 354 308 342
temp. oC 394 336 458 485 413 422 372 381
Temperature range
oC 64 66 68 90 65 72 66 73
DDPM = Dial Division Per Minute
The blends exhibit higher softening temperature, maximum fluidity temperature and maximum
fluidity (320 ddpm and 354 ddpm) than the single Nigerian coals. Fluidity data provide
information about the formation of a plastic phase during coke making. Diez et al., [10]
reported that a Gieseler maximum fluidity between 200 and 1000 dial division per minute is
desirable for a good coking coal blend. Thus the parameters indicate the ability of the coal blends
to form a homogenous solid coke.
Vol.10, No.1 Quality of Some Nigerian Coals 107
The rheological and chemical analyses have shown that the Nigerian coals are lower in coking
qualities than the investigated American and Polish coal. Amongst the Nigerian coals, the
qualities of Lafia-Obi are greater than that of Chikila coal. The coking qualities of
Nigeria/Foreign coal blends are generally higher than those of the single Nigerian coals. Blends
produced using Lafia-Obi coal are more qualitative than those produced by Chikila coal. Thus a
good metallurgical coking quality coal may be obtained by blending the Lafia-Obi coal with
either the American or Polish coking coals.
The authors wish to thank the management and coal laboratory staff of the National
Metallurgical Development Centre (NMDC), Jos, Plateau State, Nigeria, for providing an
enabling environment by allowing the use of their laboratory in the course of the investigation.
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