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Passive treatment of acid mine drainage using South African coal fly ash in a column reactor
Nkongolo, Etienne Beya
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Fly ash (FA) and acid mine drainage (AMD) are two undesirable materials generated from combustion of pulverized coal for energy and mining activity respectively. Both waste materials have serious, negative impacts on the environment. Fly ash storage leaches a variety of contaminants into surface and groundwater and AMD contains high amounts of toxic metals besides the already dominant 𝑆𝑂!"# concentrations. Many studies had investigated AMD treatment using FA and successfully removed significant amounts of sulphate, as well as minor and trace elements. Hence AMD can be treated using coal fly ash in an active or passive system without addition of any other chemicals. This study had as of objectives the evaluation of the neutralization capacity of FA from two South African’s power stations located in Mpumalanga which are Lethabo and Kendal with mine drainage water from the Mpumalanga coal fields using passive treatment. The research program simulated ex-situ neutralization of AMD in a fly ash slurry followed by continued AMD contact, representing the potential for using spent material as mine annulus fill to reduce air and water content and further AMD generation. Both the fly ash and AMD were obtained from the Mpumalanga province in Eastern South Africa. A 3:1 slurry ratio of AMD to fly ash was mixed until pH stabilized. After mixing, the slurry was packed in columns and left for a duration of 24 hours for a good settling time before the hydraulic treatment. Thereafter the AMD was continuously passed through the columns using gravity flow. Samples of effluent were collected at set time intervals during the hydraulic treatment. These samples were used to determine the flow rate, pH of the leachates and some sent for analysis by Inductively Coupled Plasma Optical Emission Spectrometry (ICP-OES) and Ion Chromatography (IC) to determine the composition of the effluent water recovered. The X-ray diffraction done on both coal fly ash sources shown a dominance of quartz and mullites,on the other hand the X-ray fluorescence demonstrate that Kendal and Lethabo coal fly ash belong to class F ash due to fact that the total composition of SiO2, Al2O3 and Fe2O3 was exceeding 70% of the entire composition. Moreover, trace elements such as As, V, Ni, Mn, S, Sr, Cu, Y and Pb are found in the CFA used as well. The ICP-OES analysis showed that Eyethu AMD is very acidic with a pH of 2.23, with sulphate concentration of 2680 mg/L, displaying the existence of some metals some of which are Ca, Al and Fe. The neutralization process of Eyethu acid mine drainage using Kendal and Lethabo CFA was highlighted by the variation of pH from the time mine water was in contact with CFA, for the treatment with Lethabo CFA the treated water had its pH raised from 2.23 to 12.65 and from 2.23 to 8.37 using Lethabo and Kendal CFA respectively and this phenomena was explained by the dissolution and hydrolysis of the oxide components such as CaO. This neutralization process was characterized by a strong buffer zone around the pH of 12.83 to 8.37 from the Lethabo leachate and between 8.37 to 7.28 for the leachate from Kendal column. This buffer zone is explained by the hydrolysis of Al3+ which forms a hydroxide phase until all the aluminum ion was totally hydrolyzed. Electrical conductivity was also observed to vary. An amount of 1440 g of Kendal fly ash was used in the columns and treated 15 bed volumes of Eyethu AMD before the CFA was exhausted and lost its neutralizing power in the case of Lethabo CFA, 13 bed volumes of AMD were treated with 1280g CFA before breakthrough was observed. During treatment of Eyethu AMD with Lethabo and Kendal CFA the flow rate of the effluents water first increased during the first minutes of contact of AMD with CFA then started decreasing with time. The concentration of sulphate was reduced to up to 88% in the effluent from Lethabo CFA and 56% in the effluent from Kendal CFA. Some other metals such Fe, Mg, Mn, Al have been significantly removed from the AMD in the Lethabo and Kendal leachate. Furthermore, mass balance calculation were done around the columns in order to determine the moisture content and the % water recovery. From the calculation done it was shown that the column made of Kendal CFA can treat the AMD with a water recovery of 91.9% while Lethabo column could only recover 83.33% of the inlet water. In addition, Acid Base accounting tests were done in order to determine whether either Kendal or Lethabo CFA are from an acid generating or neutralizing rock. Test results have shown that both Kendal and Lethabo CFA are from an alkaline producing rock as their Net Neutralizing Potential and Neutralizing Potential Ratio were above 20 Kg/t CaCO3.