“How the advanced structural characterisation of coal has benefited coal utilisation” was the subject of the Annual Coal Science lecture, delivered by Professor Colin Snape (University of Nottingham).
Beautiful Monday evening in London at the Institute of Physics, and the Biomass & Fossil Fuel Research Alliance (BF2RA) was hosting its annual Coal Science lecture which is co-sponsored by the Clean Coal Centre and attended by a small group of the Centre’s technical authors.
In a time when fracking and renewables seem to hog the headlines, it’s refreshing to see that there’s still science going on in the UK universities, and in the case of Professor Colin Snape, he’s been studying the molecular properties of coal for 40 years, part of which was spent at the UK Coal Research Establishment. His infectious enthusiasm came across in spades when describing his life’s work in academia. His lifelong commitment to coal science started with his lineage, which is rich in coal heritage. It seemed fitting that coal would become part of his own professional life.
Colin is somewhat of a coal breaker, using extensive and varied techniques of NMR (nuclear magnetic resonance) spectroscopy to understand the composition of coal.
His lecture included the research and development of methods of testing and experimentation to identify the characteristics and behaviour of fossil fuels.
His list of research is varied including: adsorbents for CO2 and other pollutants, such as Hg, in combustion and gasification; pyrolysis experiments to simulate petroleum basins; hydropyrolysis techniques detect and quantify materials emanating from dumped tar sands in the environment;
The lecture also included some fascinating research into biomass injection into coke works, work on oxyfuel combustion, and extremely high temperature and pressure testing for high volatile coal.
As well as organising a coal science summer school, Colin touched on many subjects briefly, along with demonstrations on hydrogen absorption and explanations of the structure of carbon in coal. His conclusions on the future of coal included a great deal of encouragement for novel coal utilisation techniques, not least IGCC, UGC (as mentioned earlier), and also the importance of training young engineers.
The whole evening was spent mingling with lots of friendly faces from the world of UK coal research and industry, not least some of our very own ex Clean Coal Centre friends from years gone by.
All in all, a splendid evening spent with colleagues, wine and good food.