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UK Teams With State
to Create Coal and Timber Waste Fuel

By Ralph Derickson

 

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The waste coal obtained from coal refuse ponds will be cleaned using advanced separation technologies. It will then be "de-watered" to moisture levels lower than current technologies can obtain, using an enhanced de-watering technique. The clean coal and sawdust will be combined at an approximate ratio of about 9-to-1 and reconstituted to form a utility fuel that can be easily handled and transported. The proximity of the coal and lumber industries within the state minimizes transportation costs.

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July 25, 2002 (Lexington, Ky.) -- Scientists will soon join with two of Kentucky's biggest industries to create a premium fuel from coal and timber waste. The experiment could lead to a production of an additional $84.5 million in new fuel revenues annually.
Investigators from the University of Kentucky Mining Engineering Department, along with the UK Center for Applied Energy Research, have received $501,730 from the Kentucky Division of Energy with funds supplied by the U.S. Department of Energy.

Including the cost-share contributions of UK and the industrial partners, the total funding will be $670,500 for the two-year project.

James River Coal Co., Cook and Son Mining Co., Pine Mountain Lumber Co., and H & S Lumber will assist the UK scientists by supplying materials and acting as technical advisers to the project. The Kentucky Forrest Industries Association also will advise on the project.

The waste coal obtained from coal refuse ponds will be cleaned using advanced separation technologies. It will then be "de-watered" to moisture levels lower than current technologies can obtain, using an enhanced de-watering technique. The clean coal and sawdust will be combined at an approximate ratio of about 9-to-1 and reconstituted to form a utility fuel that can be easily handled and transported. The proximity of the coal and lumber industries within the state minimizes transportation costs.

In addition to improving the efficiency of fine-coal recovery processes, the project will evaluate and optimize the use of sawdust. Early studies have shown that the addition of sawdust and other wood fibers improves filtration properties of the coal, ultimately yielding a lower moisture content product. This step also improves the strength of the reconstituted fuel, which will either be extruded or formed into briquettes.

Geoffrey Young, assistant director of the Kentucky Division of Energy, said, "The Kentucky Division of Energy is enthusiastic about being involved with this research and development project because it fits into the ongoing Kentucky Industries of the Future program (Ky-IOF), the goal of which is to help energy-intensive industries improve their efficiency, reduce waste, and remain economically viable. This grant is the first tangible result of the Ky-IOF process in the Kentucky mining industry, and we hope it will lead the way to further innovations."

After completion of the project, a detailed economic evaluation of the total process will be conducted. If successful, the process will produce a fuel having an energy value of around 9,000 to10,000 Btu/lb from material that is currently disposed in refuse ponds and landfills. The state could realize an annual energy recovery of 842 billion Btu from sawdust, while 69,600 billion Btu would be obtained from the fine-coal currently being disposed. Based on an average cost of 1.20 $/MMBtu, the total increased revenue could be as much as $84.5 million annually.


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