On July 26, the Western Energy Training Center announced plans to put a clean coke pilot plant into production at its facilities near Helper.
The plant will use coal fines and locally mined marginal coal to produce high-grade carbon briquettes.
According the center's press release, synergy created by the collaboration of industries and educational organizations allowed the WETC to be awarded a center of excellence grant to support funding for the pilot plant.
The project will help establish a firm basis for commercial production of value-added carbon reductants or clean coke at costs well below current available products.
The plant will also provide hands on training for process technology students as it assists in developing a skilled workforce within the local area.
The project will be a unified production and operation effort between the WETC, Terra Systems and Combustion Resources.
Combustion Resources specializes in carbon based consulting and is responsible for the patent pending process that will be used at the new facility.
"This project is a wonderful example that shows how industry and education can come together to make great impacts. With the combination of raw coal material resources in Eastern Utah, Combustion Resource's patent pending Clean Coke Technology and the design and process control experts at WETC, the cooperation has created a dynamic partnership," commented WETC coordinator Robert Topping.
According to Terra Systems and Combustion Resources personnel, the process to be implemented at the plant is completely impact free to the environment.
Sulfur released within the process is captured, concentrated and sold.
Oxides released during the process are captured and used to manufacture fertilizers and tar is removed at the beginning of the process and reused at the conclusion as a binding agent, explained officials.
Industrial companies involved in the project include Terra Systems, Combustion Resources, Manufacturing Extension Partnership, WestCAMP, Mountain Island Energy and National Centers of Excellence.
Educational organizations involved include the College of Eastern Utah's WETC, Brigham Young University and Utah Valley State College.
Funding for the project from these resources totals over $1,035,000.
The WETC contends that once the pilot program proves to be successful, the plant will then be duplicated on a larger scale to create a full-scale production plant.
The creation of this plant will then be followed by the roll out of three additional full-scale production plants.
Combustion Resources owns the intellectual property for the clean coke technology, which is exclusively licensed to Terra Systems.
However, CEU's energy training center will own the intellectual property for the process and control systems tested at the facility.
Following the success of the pilot plant, Combustion Resources and Terra Systems have committed to build the first production plant here in Carbon County.
According to Topping, this will potentially bring more funds to the college in the form of royalties.
Topping further added that the successful commercialization of the clean coke technology will fuel the Utah economy by stimulating rural Utah with a new industry.
According to company officials, coal coking is something that has not been seen west of the Mississippi since Geneva Steel left the area.
Carbon County has had a rich tradition of coal coking.
The county's history started with the coal coking ovens which operated at Sunnyside.
According to the Helper Western Mining and Railroad Museum's website, Jefferson Tidwell and his three sons began mining coal in the Sunset District, which became known as Sunnyside in 1896.
After discovering that the coal was much better for coking than the material being produced at Castle Gate in 1898, the Utah Fuel Company purchased the rights to the mining property from Tidwell. By 1917 there were 813 coke ovens in the area.
The need for coking coal exploded during the growing threat of World War II, pointed out the museum's website.
To meet the demand, Kaiser Steel built a new subdivision to Sunnyside called Sunnydale and recruited coal miners from throughout the United States.
But since the closing of the Sunnyside mining operation, local coal has been deemed inferior for the production of coke, pointed out the museum's website.
According to the leaders of the pilot plant, technology has surpassed the obstacles presented by the local coal's chemistry.
"Local job creation will be accomplished in two ways. Industrial partners will build and operate a full-scale production facility in Utah. And since the U.S. coke market is less than 10 percent of the total world market, the demand for clean coke will drive the manufacture of its modular units for distribution around the world," explained Topping.
The College of Eastern Utah intends to use the pilot plant after the clean coke technology has moved to the demonstration phase as a research and development laboratory for industry.
The pilot plant, which is already built and being tested, will be redesigned to accommodate research and development for carbon diversification products and workforce development.
Industry will schedule time to utilize the laboratory plant to test formulas and procedures for new product development, concluded WETC officials.