Effect of the Coal Preparation Process on Mercury Flows and Emissions in Coal Combustion Systems.
Coal preparation is effective in controlling primary mercury emissions in coal combustion systems; however, the combustion of coal preparation byproducts may cause secondary emissions. The inconsistent coal preparation statistics, unclear mercury distribution characteristics during coal preparation, and limited information regarding the byproduct utilization pathways lead to great uncertainty in the evaluation of the effect of coal preparation in China. This study elucidated the mercury distribution in coal preparation based on the activity levels of 2886 coal preparation plants, coal mercury content database, tested mercury distribution factors of typical plants, and then traced the mercury flows and emissions in the downstream sectors using a cross-industry mercury flow model. We found that coal preparation altered the mercury flows by reducing 68 tonnes of mercury to sectors such as coking and increasing the flows to byproduct utilization sectors. Combusting cleaned coal rather than raw coal reduced the mercury emissions by 47 tonnes; however, this was offset by secondary mercury emissions. Coal gangue spontaneous combustion and the cement kiln coprocessing process were dominant secondary emitters. Our results highlight the necessity of whole-process emission control of atmospheric mercury based on flow maps. Future comprehensive utilization of wastes in China should fully evaluate the potential secondary mercury emissions.