I need the straight dope again...

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...and the folks here have never let me down.

Question: Does exposure to sunlight / air / weather 'degrade' coal? I was told that sunlight will change coal over time to where it will not burn or it will burn only with great difficulty. I have 10 tons that have been stored outside in a pile for 6 months. A friend told me that it will decay somehow, and that I need to put a tarp over it. Not only that, but to 'regenerate' it, I must spray some diesel on it before covering it up.

This sounds fishy to me. It is a rock after all, and I know the black in it is just carbon. Is there some volatile chemical / catalyst that boils off or is otherwise changed by exposure to the elements?

Just want to know, many thanks in advance for any and all advice.

Coal Blooded Kook

-- Y2Kook (y2kook@usa.net), December 26, 1999


No more dope for you, Kook!

-- (cavscout@fix.net), December 26, 1999.

What the hell are you doing with all of that coal Kook? You're not going to spray it with diesel and burn it in your house are you?

Yes, it contains Carbon-14, a radioactive substance that decays very slowly. It will saturate everything within a 1 mile radius, including you and your family, and your grandchildren will be born with three legs and four eyes.

-- Hawk (flyin@high.again), December 26, 1999.

I wouldn't worry too much about it. When I was young and poor, I used to steal hard coal from a railroad line shack to supplement my meager stock of firewood (not recommended: the first time I added coal to the woodstove, it made the sides glow cherry red!!); the coal was just dumped in a pile onto the bare ground near the shack, with no covering or anything.

From Department of Energy handbook: Coal should be stored in properly designed bunkers, silos, bins, or in outside piles. The most important aspects of coal storage are minimizing the flow of air through the pile, using the "first-in, first out" rule of thumb, and minimizing the amount of finely divided coal in the pile. "Hot spots" should be removed or exposed to the atmosphere to allow cooling. Coal should be compacted if possible to reduce the amount of air in the pile. Water may be used to cool hot spots, but should be used with caution on large areas of hot coal to present accumulations of hazardous amounts of water. Coal should not be stored in outside piles located over utility lines (water, gas, etc.).

A link for those of you who are all fired up to use coal: Coal Burning Tips

-- Cherokee (Cherokee@qtmail.com), December 26, 1999.

Uh-oh, I think Kook is out trying to haul the coal away from his house!

Sorry Kook, I was only teasing, I don't know anything about coal. I doubt that it is dangerous, but hopefully someone else can help you. Take care, and stay warm! :-)

-- Hawk (flyin@high.again), December 26, 1999.

spraying diesel on coal will cause it to ignite a little earlier. The point it to prevent the stuff from composting into an explosion. Takes a while. Air flow is desired, but not too much. Tarping is not appropriate for hard coals but can save soft coals from 'corroding' in the rain. However compensate for increase in temp in center of pile.

A good idea is to locate a coil of copper tubing in the center of the pile with two hoses leading out to the edge. Then you can pump cool water through to take out heat. Can be used to preheat your domestic hotwater. Or in summer, supply 140 degree water.

good luck. keep dust down with frequent spritzing with water.

-- pliney the younger (pliney@vallier.com), December 26, 1999.

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