High Volitol Pittsburgh VS Kentucky

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Post Wed. Dec. 14, 2011 3:48 pm

After reading this forum over the past months I have been thirsting after some Eastern Kentucky coal. I rcently traveled up into Pa and bought some coal said to be deep-mined from the actual Pittsburgh seam near the actual city of that name. The stuff burns well and hot and must be quite high in volitols, as it gives off a carbon-y fluff (rather like what you see when burning asphalt or plastic) when first started. The flying fluff goes away after good burning heat is attained. The coal lasts well, doesn't coke-over and falls down fairly well as it burns. It's ROM and with small and large rectangular or square-ish chunks. Once broken, the interior carbon is mostly homogenous with little apparent stratification. Overall the outside of this 'Pittsburgh seam coal' has a faint dull grey-ish coloration as opposed to a pure blackish color of what I normally use. The lumps are very hard to break up by hammering, especially compared to the locally-known and so-called "Big Vein" (derivative of the same Pittsburgh seam) coal now being mined in the Georges Creek Valley hillsides around Frostburg, Md-- which is the sort of coal I've preferred burning for the past twenty-five years. Unfortunately, this locally-mined "big Vein" coal -- which is ranked as a metalurgical coal but heats and lasts well, doesn't throw-off much fluff, and even smells good on the street-- has become quite costly for some reason and what the local mines are now offering is a high-sulphur coal locally-known as "Redstone"-- which occurs in a small seam above the "big vein" and they all used to have to practically give away to get rid of it. Talk about a coking and klinker-forming coal, this "redstone" is it.

Anyway, I sort of like the deep-mine Pittsburgh coal I brought home. It does have more of an odor than the local "big vein" -- not sulfurous but I'd describe it as sort of a stink-y "burning tar" smell.

I'm now wondering if I've found something similar to the Eastern Kentucky stuff. Anyone who uses good Kentucky care to describe their stuff? Is it also high volitol? Could you describe the smell of the burning coal?

Thanks, Mdtatter in Western Maryland

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Post Thu. Dec. 15, 2011 9:28 am

I've burnt some kentucky coal. I would describe it much like you did. Although I'm no expert on Bit coal and this is the only type I've tried. Smell is a hard one to place for me, it is a strong smell, not too sulfur'ish but very destinctive.

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dave brode
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Post Sat. Dec. 31, 2011 8:03 pm


It may be a little better in SW PA, but I have to say that although there is still some really good coal here around Frostburg, many small mining operators will sell stuff that's far from great for "housecoal". I'm 54, and it seems to me that for the past 20 years or so, it's really hit or miss. Oldtimers always said that if it's shiney, even a little oily looking, it's good big vein.

I hand fired a small bit boiler in my home for 5 years or so prior to fitting an old IronFiremen. Good big vein was a pleasure to use when I hand fired. The good big vein is often saved to be mixed down to enable them to sell the dirtier burning seams to the plants. Fwiw, getting stoker coal that had good heat and would clinker well was even a little more challenging. "They" often are getting rid of coal that they can't sell to the powerplants.

That said, my Kaa-2 costs me more per winter, and is worth every extra penny spent.

You may find this post interesting;

Coal History From Maryland in the "Georges Creek" Region


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