Company News

You Ask, We Answer: Coal Dust Suppression

Company news coal suppression

Click here to watch a short video about the steps we take to suppress coal dust.

Q: Why does Neptune still ship coal? Isn’t it being phased out around the world?

A: The coal handled at Neptune is steelmaking coal, mined in BC and Alberta. As its name suggests, it is a critical ingredient in the production of steel, which is a highly recyclable material used in the production of many of the things we rely on each day, including cell phones, bicycles and kitchen appliances. In addition it plays a critical role in green energy production: wind turbines, solar panels, tidal power systems and bio-energy infrastructure all require steel. Canadian steelmaking coal is very high quality, and is in demand around the world.

Q: What does Neptune do to ensure coal dust doesn’t end up in the community?

: Our priority is ensuring the materials we handle stay on our terminal, and do not cause any nuisance in our surrounding community. The best way to treat coal in order to prevent dust is with water. At Neptune, we use:

  • Spray poles, strategically placed around our steelmaking coal stockpile and attached to weather stations (as well as operated manually when needed)
  • Yard sprays, which are like large sprinklers and can spread water effectively even when there is no wind to help carry it across the pile
  • Water cannons, operated by hand
  • Water added along conveyor transfer points
  • Water sprays on our two stacker reclaimers, which move coal on and off the stockpile
  • A water truck to keep roadways clean

Q: How does Neptune prevent coal dust from ending up on local roads?

: We have both a car wash and a wheel wash to ensure dust that might accumulate on vehicles or their tires does not leave our site. These are security card controlled to help us minimize water use, and are sometimes shut down in periods of water restrictions. We balance water use with the need to suppress dust and keep our products on our site where they belong.

Q: How do coal producers and railways ensure coal doesn’t impact communities through which it is being transported by train?

: Train cars are sprayed with a polymer coating when they leave the mines, creating a crust to prevent dust from blowing off when the coal is transported. This is re-applied part way to the port and again when the railcars leave the terminal to head back to the mines to ensure any residue in the cars does not blow out. In addition, the exterior of railcars are washed down once after they are unloaded to ensure dust won’t travel back through the communities as trains leave the terminal.

: What should I do if I think I have coal dust on my property?

: Monitoring by Metro Vancouver has demonstrated that air quality in the area around the North Shore of the Port of Vancouver is generally very good. That said, we live and work in a busy area that has many sources of emissions such as decomposing grain and other organics, decomposing roofing materials, industry including Neptune and other businesses, emissions from transportation such as buses, cars, trains, and ships, and even wood smoke. Past sampling has indicated that most black dust in the local area that might appear to be coal is actually a mix of these substances, carried by wind. That said, if you have a substance on your property that you think may be coal, please call us at 604-983-7935 or email

: How is air quality monitored at Neptune and in the surrounding community?

: Air quality in the greater Vancouver area is regulated by the Metro Vancouver regional government. Neptune has air quality monitors at our terminal, and in several locations in the surrounding community. We report the results of our monitoring directly to Metro Vancouver, and our air permit can be found on their website.

Metro Vancouver also offers live air quality monitoring information. Click here for a monitor adjacent to the Iron Workers Memorial (2nd Narrows) Bridge.

: How has Neptune’s management of dust improved in recent years?

: In 2018 we began making additional improvements to our steelmaking coal dust suppression system; these upgrades will be completed in 2020. The new system will optimize water coverage of the steelmaking coal and further enhance our ability to prevent dust from leaving our site, particularly during high wind events. It involves replacing the existing wooden spray poles with new steel spray poles and oscillating yard sprays in strategic locations. Yard sprays can spray in an arc without wind, whereas spray poles work most effectively in periods of high wind, which enables the mist they create to spread. This project is part of our ongoing effort to continuously improve our environmental management and minimize the impacts of our operations on the neighbouring community.