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Front Page » April 24, 2008 » The business journal » from coal to coke... new processes modernize an old fuel
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from coal to coke... new processes modernize an old fuel

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The Western Energy Training Center showed Governor Jon Huntsman Jr. around the clean coke processing facility during his recent visit to Carbon County.

The goal of this project is to upgrade waste coals and make a cleaner burning fuel. Terra Systems, Inc., (TSYI) is a development stage company focused on advancing clean and renewable energy technologies and products and the company has teamed with WETC to run a prototype system at the facility.

The United States coke fuel market is highly dependent on foreign sources to meet demand. The U.S. currently produces less than 10 percent of the coke product necessary to support the $50 billion worldwide coke industry. The production of Clean Coke briquettes will help decrease U.S. dependency on foreign fuel sources and provide a cleaner fuel to help meet ever increasing environmental requirements.

Most producers of coke utilize older technology that is very inefficient, thus producing heavy emissions and waste products. In contrast the Clean Coke process is "Greener" in all aspects of its operation and finished product. The process can utilize, as a portion of its feedstock, coal that oftentimes exists in waste piles at abandoned or existing coal mines. In addition, the patent pending process is designed to sequester the off gas into re-usable products and recover waste oils as a component in the feedstock blending process. The finished Clean Coke briquettes can also BE formulated to meet or reduce emissions when combusted in industrial furnaces.

TSYI will begin processing coal from various local coal producers, using their patented pneumatic accelerator system (PAS) technology by May. This will provide product to the new Clean Coking facility as well as the marketplace. TSYI has partnered with Combustion Resources (CR) to launch their patented process of upgrading specialty and waste carbon products into a clean coke. TSYI has combined their technology with the CR clean coke technology to provide a very high margin coke product.

Terra Systems, CR and WETC are in the final stages of finishing the installation of the PAS system to accept coal from various local coal supplies and output feedstock to the pilot facility. The pilot facility at WETC should be complete and operational by the end of July 2008.

The nominal value coal recovery process will utilize part of its product to provide the feedstock and pre-processing for the plant and sell the remaining upgraded coal product to industrial consumers.

Contracts already exist for all of the upgraded coal product produced from the coal recovery process. Customer orders for Clean Coke briquettes to be test burned in the end user furnaces already exceed the production capability of the pilot facility.

Tim Gwyther explains the coking process to Governor Huntsman during his tour at WETC.

Upon successful completion of the pilot facility and testing at end user furnaces, TSYI plans to build four full scale Clean Coke facilities in the western U.S. by 2010.

In the past couple of years WETC and CR secured grant funding from the state of Utah to help build a full scale clean coke pilot facility, with the purpose of developing a solid training curriculum and process control methodology.

This funding was received through the Centers of Excellence program to assist the College of Eastern Utah and WETC in commercializing this technology. TSYI secured the exclusive licensing rights to the Clean Coke technology and has partnered with WETC in constructing and operating the pilot facility. The pilot facility will utilize a small portion of the coal product generated from the waste coal recovery process and generate a positive cash flow. The product generated from the pilot facility can be sold at market price to end users. The use of this pilot facility in support of workforce training, continued research and development, process control methodology, operational procedures and engineering design of full scale facilities will be invaluable to the roll out of the four full scale facilities.

WETC is a key part to training this next generation workforce. Bob Topping, director at WETC and MEP has been very instrumental in assembling academia and industry to develop a process methodology to support this growth in rural Utah.

Regional, national and international industry demand for specialty carbon products utilized in high-temperature furnaces continuously exceeds supply. Recent environmental related activities focused on the atmosphere, will continue driving stricter guidelines in plants utilizing coal and coke products. The pilot-scale facility will manufacture high-grade carbon (coke) briquettes, developed from coal fines and other low-quality mining by-products. The briquetted product can be used by metallurgical and specialty carbon-reductant fuel users. These fuel users require large runs of briquettes to test in their facility prior to switching their current fuel source to the new Clean Coke. The pilot facility will provide and sell sufficient finished product to conduct these full scale tests. Once the full scale Clean Coke facilities are operational, the Pilot facility can be modified to produce new test products without interrupting the operation of the full scale facilities.

Many of the current producers of coke in the U.S. have captive customers and require additional imports to meet the captive customer demands. Most of the coke product is supplied out of the Asian markets, as the production capacity of the U.S. continues to decrease. The decline in U.S. production has caused the price of higher grade coke to double over the past five years and forced the industry to consider alternative and oftentimes less desirable fuel sources. The production of Clean Coke products in the west could not only supply local requirements but address the increasing world demand. The PAS technology developed by TSYI is modularized and can be moved to various facilities to recover waste coals or other feedstocks.

Smaller runs of "green" test briquettes were produced through the first phase of the pilot facility in late 2007. The green briquettes hadn't been run through the briquette furnace to provide the structural strength of the briquettes, but were processed in end user furnaces to see preliminary results. These results exceeded expectations and generated a strong industry demand, based on their physical burn characteristics. There are several end users who are banking their facilities future viability on the success of a Clean Coke solution. They can't meet the current environmental regulations without this alternate fuel source. They have already contracted for the first runs of the briquettes through the fully functional pilot facility.

Clayton Timothy, CEO of Terra Systems talking to Governor Huntsman near the 12,000 ton per year clean coke pilot facility.

Tim Gwyther, at WETC is in charge of the coke processing test facility that is being put into operation in one of the large buildings on site. Gwyther took Huntsman along on a tour and explained the coke processing to him in detail as well as showing the equipment that is in place to date.

WETC is enthusiastic about the opportunities that will come to southeastern Utah because of the coke processing facility. Below is a summarization of expected benefits:

The benefits to Utah and the local area include:

•Over 200 high paying jobs will be created near Price over the next two years.

•Mine personnel can be re-trained to operate, control, manufacture and maintain new clean coke facilities.

•Industry and academia are working together through the centers of excellence program to roll out this revolutionary technology and business model.

•Utah Clean Coke technology will reduce foreign control of fuel supplies. The U.S. currently produces only 10 percent of the current world demand for coke fuel products.

WETC will provide a world class training environment to train skilled workers on an actual production line. Training curriculum will include operators, maintenance, financial, engineers and managers.

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