Ted Pickering was an outstanding coal preparation engineer and worked with enthusiasm, technical ingenuity, organising ability and integrity. Jim Donnelly introduced Ted to the ACPS members at the Kirribilli Club, November 2004. Ted commenced work as a trainee at BHP Coke Ovens and Coal Preparation Departments in the 1950’s and had an eventful and successful career in the coal industry and later in State Parliament.
In 1959 Ted worked on the upgrading of the BHP Steelworks CPP commissioning the Deister Table and Flotation Plant built by RBLong. The operational problems with this plant are the stuff of legend. But despite all the difficulties, the commissioning staff maintained feed to the coke ovens. A major difficulty was the fine coal system flotation, product thickening and filtration, which was fouled with ultra fines slimes. In those days the only fine particle coagulants used were starches and these proved ineffective. Ted was the first coal preparation engineer in this country to experiment with poly acrylamide flocculants. He succeeded in cleaning up the recirculating water and getting the flotation cells, fine coal thickener and the vacuum disk filters to work and in so doing averted a coke ovens disaster.
The BHP froth flotation plant was the first coal flotation plant in Australia and creosote was employed as a flotation reagent with mediocre results. Ted experimented with and adopted the frother reagent, methyl isobutyl carbinol, achieving considerable improvements in fine coal yield.
In 1965 he moved to the Bellambi Coal Company as coal preparation and coke ovens engineer and in his early twenties succeeded Rex Sandercock as Bellambi Coal Preparation Manager. Ted then worked with Jim in the dense medium cyclone installation at Bellambi, pitching in and helping at all hours of the day to bring the installation of the new technology to a successful conclusion.
Ted made significant contributions to the coal preparation industry. He was the first to employ a solid bowl centrifuge in a coal preparation plant for dewatering thickened tailings at Coal Cliff CPP. His expertise gained in flocculation research was utilised in successfully making a solid bowl centrifuge perform an operation which tested the limits of its capabilities. Coal Cliff was able to de-water and mix tailings with coarse rejects used in land fill, dispensing with the previous practice of pumping tailings slurry out to sea. He presented a landmark paper to the Society on this important breakthrough.
Coming from a family heavily involved in local government politics, his ideologies led to his becoming a member of the Legislative Council of the NSW Parliament in 1976. He not only worked diligently in this role but continued to manage the Coal Cliff CPP. Due to his drive to contribute to the welfare of the coal preparation industry he joined the Committee of the Society where he contributed his talent, advice and influence to the considerable benefit of the Society. Pressures of Parliamentary duties led him to resign from Coal Cliff but maintain a part time coal preparation consultancy, his most noteworthy contribution being the process design for the new three stage Mt Thorley CPP, the first fully computer controlled CPP in Australia.
Ted attended the International Coal Preparation Conference in Donetsk, Ukraine in 1979. His reputation as an anti socialist politician had preceded him and he was a person of interest to the KGB in Russia. Ted outlined many off the record anecdotes to the members present. Ted and his lovely wife Elaine have mutually supported each other and enjoyed life through his colourful career.