An investigation of the hydrodynamics of the teetered bed separator for fine coal recovery.
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The South African coal industry produces a large quantity of coal per annum. The rejects from various unit operations, such as spirals, consist of fine coal that joins the plants tailings dam waste. As existing high quality resources become depleted, the need to improve recovery of this fine coal grows. This project investigates the use of a teetered bed separator (TBS); a hindered settling gravity concentration device for fine coal recovery. This device has proven successful in the United Kingdom and in Australian collieries for fine coal separation in the size range between 2mm and 0.3mm. It has also been used for decades as a classifying device for silica sand and tin. The TBS operates in the size range of water-only cyclones and spiral concentrators, and could potentially be used to separate a broader size range of coal fines so as to offer a lower footprint device for the fines recovery section of a plant. Spiral concentrators cannot always be operated efficiently at a separating specific gravity of lower than 1.6; a TBS may also extend the density range for separation and thus improve recovery. The objective of this project was to gain a full understanding of the TBS from fundamental particle interaction and develop a lab scale unit, which is capable of separation to about 0.1mm at optimum conditions. This involved the development of design parameters based on the various distributor plates and flow pattern modelling. The hydrodynamics of the separator were investigated using the Eulerian-Eulerian modelling approach of commercial CFD package, Fluent 6.1. Seven distributor plates of varying aperture size and geometric arrangement were considered. Coal and shale particles, sized between 2mm and 0.038mm with a specific gravity (SG) range of 1.2 to 2.0, were separated using the laboratory scale unit. The results of both the simulations and the laboratory tests were then compared. The simulations revealed that Plate 3 was the best option for implementation. It had an even upward velocity profile compared to the other plates, with minimum wall effects and disturbances. The upward water flow rate (teeter water) was varied experimentally and the composition of the teeter bed, underflow and overflow were analysed using 1.5, 2 and Smm cubic density tracers with an SG range of 1.2-2.0. Analysis of the partition curves of the distributor plates revealed that Plate 3 had the lowest Ecart Probable (Ep) and cut- point densities. The comparison of simulated results and experimental results show that the simulator could predict the distributor plate design with the lowest Ep in practical tests. The simulator could be beneficial when optimising an industrial scale unit, by allowing prediction of improved segregation patterns and thus separation efficiency.