Advisory Council Touts Potential for New Products

Source: E&E News, May 17, 2019 By: Dylan Brown

The National Coal Council trumpeted non-burning uses of coal in a report published yesterday. (May 16, 2019) The report recommends that the Department of Energy create a dedicated coal-to-products research and development program and incentivize private-sector investment.

“Advanced uses of carbon from coal can also lead to cleaner energy, cleaner water and cleaner air,” council CEO Janet Gelici said in a statement. “The environmental benefits of durable, light-weight and high-strength carbon products provide more incentives to advance the commercialization of these technologies.”

The federal advisory committee’s report stems from a request from Energy Secretary Rick Perry to look at coal uses beyond electricity and steel production. DOE has been fixated on saving rapidly shuttering coal-fired plants — the destination for four-fifths of all U.S. coal.

The coal industry, which dominated the advisory panel, has long been tinkering with turning coal into carbon fiber, liquid fuels and other products.

Ramaco Carbon LLC CEO Randall Atkins, who served as chairman for the report, has pitched DOE for years to foster ideas like his company’s quest to build cars using coal. “The analysis undertaken in this report indicates that volume utilization of domestic U.S. coal resources for coal-to-product applications has the potential to be on the same order of magnitude as applications for coal power generation,” he said in a statement.

Other estimates have been far less optimistic about the potential, but Atkins and the council say the issue merits more study.