Post Industrial Revolution Use of Coal

The major coal-utilization technologies—combustion, gasification, liquefaction, and carbonization (i.e., the production of coke)—either got their start during the 100-year-plus period of the Industrial Revolution/post-Industrial Revolution era or, in the case of coke production, made major strides in technology development and usage. These technologies are discussed in detail in Chapter 5, but a brief discussion is provided here.

The demand for coal increased as additional fuel chemistry and engineering technologies were developed. In 1855, R. W. Bunsen invented the atmospheric gas burner, which led to a wide range of heating applications.

Electric lighting, which had its start in the late 1800s, led to widespread coal combustion for the generation of steam for power generation. Utilizing coal for generating electricity has been continually passing through various stages of technology development ever since the late 1800s; examples include such areas as advanced combustion technologies, new materials of construction, innovative system designs, and new developments in steam production, electricity generation, and pollution control (discussed in detail in later chapters).

As the use of coal gas developed, the production of gas for heating purposes was also developing. The first gas producer to make low-Btu gas was built in 1832 and at the turn of the century was an important method for heating furnaces [2]. Another development in the field of gas production was the discovery of the carbon-steam reaction, where steam is reacted with carbon to produce carbon monoxide and hydrogen. This gasification technology had its major start in the mid- to late 1800s and increased until less expensive natural gas replaced manufactured gas [2].

Coal hydrogenation began in 1913 with the Bergius concept of direct hydrogenation of coal under hydrogen pressure at an elevated temperature [2]. The production of liquid hydrocarbons via indirect liquefaction (i.e., Fischer-Tropsch synthesis) was also conceived at this time.

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