Variability of Natural Dust Erosion from a Coal Pile

Stephen F. Mueller Tennessee Valley Authority, Muscle Shoals, Alabama

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Jonathan W. Mallard Tennessee Valley Authority, Muscle Shoals, Alabama

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Qi Mao Tennessee Valley Authority, Muscle Shoals, Alabama

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Stephanie L. Shaw Electric Power Research Institute, Palo Alto, California

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Abstract

A study of fugitive dust emissions from a pile of crushed coal revealed that, in addition to dust being emitted into the atmosphere during periods of pile-management (human) activity, it is also emitted during periods without human activity. This “natural” emission in itself is not surprising given past work on wind erosion of particulate matter from aggregate piles. However, hourly downwind measurements of fine particle (PM10) mass concentrations at two sites revealed that excessive dust was present in the air even when wind speeds were below the erosion threshold estimated from nearby wind speed measurements and regulatory guidance on coal pile aerodynamic characteristics. During periods of natural emissions with higher wind speeds, downwind concentrations were strongly associated with µ2—the squared excess of 1-min maximum wind speed above the erosion threshold—consistent with previous work on wind erosion potential. However, 88% of hourly concentrations coincided with lower winds for which wind speed was not a good predictor of airborne dust levels. Evidence was found that natural low-wind PM10 concentrations varied significantly with relative humidity, air temperature, and turbulence parameters (σu and σw). Smoke from coal combustion was ruled out as a significant factor in PM10 levels, but statistical evidence along with visual observation suggests that microscale turbulent airflows, including dust devils, were a significant source of PM10 during low wind speeds over the pile. The localized behavior of the turbulence makes it very difficult to develop a strong statistical model of natural downwind concentrations on the basis of off-pile meteorological measurements.

Supplemental information related to this paper is available at the Journals Online website: http://dx.doi.org/10.1175/JAMC-D-14-0126.s1.

Deceased.

Corresponding author address: Stephen F. Mueller, Consultant, 109 Birch Run, Florence, AL 35633. E-mail: sfm-ccm@att.net

Abstract

A study of fugitive dust emissions from a pile of crushed coal revealed that, in addition to dust being emitted into the atmosphere during periods of pile-management (human) activity, it is also emitted during periods without human activity. This “natural” emission in itself is not surprising given past work on wind erosion of particulate matter from aggregate piles. However, hourly downwind measurements of fine particle (PM10) mass concentrations at two sites revealed that excessive dust was present in the air even when wind speeds were below the erosion threshold estimated from nearby wind speed measurements and regulatory guidance on coal pile aerodynamic characteristics. During periods of natural emissions with higher wind speeds, downwind concentrations were strongly associated with µ2—the squared excess of 1-min maximum wind speed above the erosion threshold—consistent with previous work on wind erosion potential. However, 88% of hourly concentrations coincided with lower winds for which wind speed was not a good predictor of airborne dust levels. Evidence was found that natural low-wind PM10 concentrations varied significantly with relative humidity, air temperature, and turbulence parameters (σu and σw). Smoke from coal combustion was ruled out as a significant factor in PM10 levels, but statistical evidence along with visual observation suggests that microscale turbulent airflows, including dust devils, were a significant source of PM10 during low wind speeds over the pile. The localized behavior of the turbulence makes it very difficult to develop a strong statistical model of natural downwind concentrations on the basis of off-pile meteorological measurements.

Supplemental information related to this paper is available at the Journals Online website: http://dx.doi.org/10.1175/JAMC-D-14-0126.s1.

Deceased.

Corresponding author address: Stephen F. Mueller, Consultant, 109 Birch Run, Florence, AL 35633. E-mail: sfm-ccm@att.net
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