NIOSHTIC-2 Publications Search
Spontaneous combustion: coal characterization and environmental factors.
Proceedings of the 32nd Annual Institute on Mining Health, Safety and Research, Salt Lake City, Utah, August 5-7, 2001. Jenkins FM, Langton J, McCarter MK, Rowe B, eds. Salt Lake City, UT: University of Utah, 2001 Aug; :91-95
In the West, during the last few years, the issue of spontaneous combustion, particularly coal characterization and environmental factors that affect spontaneous combustion, has been getting much attention in the mining industry. Spontaneous combustion is the self-ignition of a substance to rapid oxidation of its constituents without an external source of heat. In other words, coal produces heat just through oxidation. Over a 10- to 15-year period, about 15% of reportable underground mine fires are due to spontaneous combustion. This is an average of about two fires per year defined as reportable mine fires by the Mine Safety and Health Administration. But that really does not do justice to the problem or to the western mining industry because if you mine coal in the West, you deal with spontaneous combustion every day and it's a fight to keep it from getting to the point where it becomes a reportable mine fire. Spontaneous combustion occurs when heat is produced, and there are two ways to produce heat with coal. You can oxidize the coal, or you can produce what is called the heat of wetting by driving moisture from the coal and then reabsorbing it. This can happen through environmental conditions, and if the heat produced is greater than the heat dissipated (which can occur through conduction, convection, and vaporization), then there is a heat rise in the coal mass. When the temperature gets too high and the coal gets too close to the fire, the coal can eventually burst into flame.
Spontaneous-combustion; Mining-industry; Mine-fires; Coal-mining; Geology; Underground-mining; Longwall-mining; Computer-software; Safety-research
NIOSH Pittsburgh Research Laboratory, P.O. Box 18070, Pittsburgh, PA 15236
Jenkins FM; Langton J; McCarter MK; Rowe B
Proceedings of the 32nd Annual Institute on Mining Health, Safety and Research, Salt Lake City, Utah, August 5-7, 2001
PA; AL; WY; CO; UT
Page last reviewed: September 2, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division