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Mercury and halogens in coal

December 5, 2014

Apart from mercury itself, coal rank and halogen content are among the most important factors inherent in coal that determine the proportion of mercury captured by conventional controls during coal combustion. This chapter reviews how mercury in coal occurs, gives available concentration data for mercury in U.S. and international commercial coals, and provides an overview of the natural variation in halogens that influence mercury capture. Three databases, the U.S. Geological Survey coal quality (USGS COALQUAL) database for in-ground coals, and the 1999 and 2010 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Information Collection Request (ICR) databases for coals delivered to power stations, provide extensive results for mercury and other parameters that are compared in this chapter. In addition to the United States, detailed characterization of mercury is available on a nationwide basis for China, whose mean values in recent compilations are very similar to the United States in-ground mean of 0.17 ppm mercury. Available data for the next five largest producers (India, Australia, South Africa, the Russian Federation, and Indonesia) are more limited and with the possible exceptions of Australia and the Russian Federation, do not allow nationwide means for mercury in coal to be calculated. Chlorine in coal varies as a function of rank and correspondingly, depth of burial. As discussed elsewhere in this volume, on a proportional basis, bromine is more effective than chlorine in promoting mercury oxidation in flue gas and capture by conventional controls. The ratio of bromine to chlorine in coal is indicative of the proportion of halogens present in formation waters within a coal basin. This ratio is relatively constant except in coals that have interacted with deep-basin brines that have reached halite saturation, enriching residual fluids in bromine. Results presented here help optimize mercury capture by conventional controls and provide a starting point for implementation of mercury-specific controls discussed elsewhere in this volume.