Coal research facility planned in West Virginia
CHARLESTON — An agreement has been reached with a Wyoming-based carbon technology company to open a new research facility in Charleston, the governor announced.
Ramaco Carbon will pursue research into coal as the precursor for advanced carbon products and materials, Gov. Jim Justice said.
“I am excited beyond belief to welcome Ramaco Carbon’s next incredible research facility to our great state. It’s a complete game-changer for us and, really, the entire country,” Justice said during his state of the state message to the Legislature on Wednesday.
“West Virginia is truly blessed with an abundance of natural resources and our coal is as good and as plentiful as it gets,” he said. “We absolutely need to continue doing all we can to harness the power of coal in every way possible and having this facility to test new ways to convert this dynamic resource is a great opportunity for all.”
Ramaco Carbon has another research facility under development in Sheridan, Wyo. Called iCAM centers for Carbon Advanced Materials, the Sheridan facility will open this summer.
“The research that we will conduct in West Virginia has potentially far-reaching national economic and strategic implications,” Randall Atkins, Ramaco Carbon’s Chairman and CEO, said. “We are deeply appreciative of the Governor’s vote of confidence in our contributions to these research efforts and we look forward to further cementing the Ramaco ‘family’ of coal interests in West Virginia. We will rapidly proceed to open our eastern research facility to be located in Charleston and hope to utilize both the valuable coal and existing research resources that the state has to offer.”
With the mantra “coal is too valuable to burn,” Ramaco Carbon in recent years also has built a national network of research support at universities, scientific institutes, the Department of Energy’s National Labs and other government organizations to support the field of coal-to-products. Coal is used in innovative and environmentally friendly processes to create higher-value products and materials.
The U.S. Department of Energy in September announced Ramaco was the recipient or a sub-recipient of more than $5 million in new federal grants to support these efforts.
“We are excited about the transformative potential of these projects,” said Steven Winberg, Department of Energy assistant secretary for Fossil Energy. “Advancing this coal R&D is paving the way for future technology innovation and integration.”
Ramaco, in the Energy Department research grants in which it is the lead, has partnered with TerraPower, a nuclear innovation company based in Bellevue, Wash., to create a manufacturing process for transforming coal to carbon fiber. Ramaco and HTI-Axens of Princeton, N.J., a global provider of refining technology, collaborate on a grant for producing pitch from coal for use in the production of carbon fibers.
The company is in its second year as the industry partner on a separate $5 million DOE-funded grant project in Wyoming nicknamed “Coal to Cars.” The project is aimed at using coal as a precursor to lower the cost of manufacturing carbon fiber for use in the automotive industry.
Earlier this year, the National Coal Council (NCC) was asked by U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry to study new markets for “coal to products.” Atkins was chosen by the NCC to chair this report, which was titled “Coal in the New Carbon Age: Powering a Wave of Innovation in Advanced Products and Manufacturing.” The report was delivered to Perry in May.
“The Department of Energy is committed to advancing technologies that will allow us to meet our energy needs in an environmentally responsible way,” said Perry at the time DOE grants were announced. “We will continue our commitment to investing in research, development, and demonstration initiatives to drive these innovative clean coal technologies forward.”
Privately held, Ramaco Carbon has, over the past seven years, created the nation’s first vertically integrated “coal technology” entity combining coal resources, research, and manufacturing under one platform, a press release states. The company is an affiliate of publicly traded Ramaco Resources Inc., which has metallurgical coal production operations in southern West Virginia and employs over 400 individuals.