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 Post subject: Company sees value in waste coal
PostPosted: Sun Jul 04, 2010 7:10 am 

Joined: Tue Jun 03, 2008 7:12 pm
Posts: 85
Location: Harrisburg, PA (or in the coal fields)
Company sees value in waste coal

A Maryland-based company believes it can utilize silt banks, such as this one in Audenried, Carbon County, just north of McAdoo, to manufacture aircraft frames, armor for military vehicles and food and beverage cans.

Bob Baron looks at a culm bank and sees a resource.

The residents of the coal regions know too well that the piles of coal and heaps of ash from coal burning boilers turn rainwater into acids and release metals that foul creeks and spoil soil. Yet Keystone Metals Recovery of Columbia, Md., which Baron represents, sees a way to draw metals from the waste for aircraft frames, armor for military vehicles and food and beverage cans. What's left is harmless.

"Pure sand comes out. You could put it in a baby's playpen," he said. "This is the cure for what they're complaining about."

Pennsylvania has several hundred million tons of aluminum and five million tons of titanium in its ash piles of waste coal and ash, according to Keystone's literature.

America generates 120 million tons of coal ash a year, mostly from power plants. Each year, Pennsylvania churns out about 10 million tons of ash. Moreover, the state has 820 piles of waste coal, which, together with abandoned mines, helped contaminate 3,100 miles of streams, according to a 2004 report.

Fluidized bed boiler used

To mine the metals from the coal ash, Baron needs heavy equipment. However, instead of a drag line shovel, his process employs a fluidized bed boiler, the same equipment used throughout Pennsylvania that generates electricity by burning waste coal.

Baron envisions building one of his plants close enough to each of the cogeneration plants now running in McAdoo, Nesquehoning and other locations so a conveyer belt could carry the ash to Keystone's boiler. The conveyor would save power companies the expense of trucking ash to landfills, mine pits or other disposal sites.

In Keystone's plants, the ash and waste coal would run through a process for which the company applied for a U.S. patent in 2007. Last month, Keystone obtained a South African patent.

Process produces energy

The process begins by heating waste coal or ash in the fluidized bed boiler. Waste coal contains enough energy to generate the heat, Keystone's literature says. When working with ash, which has little fuel value, workers would have to add fresh coal, Baron said.

He said the plant would produce more energy than required to reclaim the metals so the excess power could be converted into electricity and sold.

Once heated, the particles of waste coal and ash would be mixed with chlorine gas. Most of the metals in the ash would form compounds with chlorine that would become liquids or gases. Then a device creates a cyclone effect to separate the compounds and distill the individual metals.

A researcher who reviewed the process figures a pilot plant like Keystone is trying to build will produce 2,320 tons of aluminum a year. Subodh Das, of Phinix LLC Consulting in Lexington, Ky., estimated in his review that Keystone's pilot plant could earn an operating profit of $1.3 million per year.

The sale of aluminum, lesser quantities of titanium, iron and other metals and of electricity provides the economic incentive for Keystone to build a plant. Other incentives to build such plants include land reclamation, reduction of greenhouse gases and changes in government regulations.

For at least 18 years, Pennsylvania permitted the use of ash to fill some of the state's 5,000 abandoned mines. However, that practice came under scrutiny 18 months ago after a dam in Kingston, Tenn., burst, sending an avalanche of coal ash slurry over homes and land and into water, which showed unsafe levels of metals.

After the accident, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency analyzed regulations of the disposal of coal ash, for which it previously declined to set rules. In one option, the federal government would set and enforce the rules. In the other, the federal government would establish minimum standards but leave the enforcement to states and citizens who file civil suits.

Baron estimates the process can produce aluminum using half the electricity of smelters that make aluminum from ore. That reduces greenhouse gases.

To further reduce carbon emissions, Keystone is experimenting with a process using algae, which is also under a pending patent and which, in turn, led Baron to say he couldn't discuss it in detail.

"We take the carbon dioxide, and it winds up as an edible animal food," he said.

Capital, patents needed

While Keystone offers environmental solutions, the company needs $30 million to build its first plant and demonstrate the technology will work.

"Wall Street said once we see the first plant, they could get state, tax-free bonds," Baron said.

Meanwhile, Keystone has looked for major investors among aluminum can producers, aircraft companies, military firms and other large companies that use aluminum and titanium. Lighter than steel, titanium doesn't rust and can be used in the creation of aircraft frames and armor plating.

The Defense Metals Technology Center is trying to prime the market for titanium.

"Our real mission is to reduce the cost so we can use a lot more," Charles Clark, the executive director of the center in North Canton, Ohio, said.

Clark said the U.S. military by law must use domestic titanium, produced primarily by four companies in Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Baron said Keystone's process will provide more American-produced metals and help the nation's balance of trade.

Although Baron has waited two years and nine months thus far for a patent for Keystone, four and a half years passed before the developer of the process that led to commercial production of titanium, William Kroll, received his patent in 1951, Kathleen Housely writes in "Black Sand: The History of Titanium."

To review Keystone's process for retrieving titanium and other metals, Ball Corp., a worldwide supplier of metal cans for food and beverages, hired Das, the researcher from Phinix LLC Consulting. The company has conducted bench tests of its processes.

Keystone's engineer Gregg Matusewitch said the bench test involved grinding up anthracite culm, heating it and adding chlorine. The test yielded aluminum chloride and lesser amounts of titanium chloride and iron chloride, as he hoped it would

"The goal was to prove the technology: that this process can be accomplished, that you can extract metals from waste coal," Matusewitch said. "Nobody is taking metal chlorides from waste coal."

Some unwanted compounds such as sodium and manganese showed up in the aluminum and iron chlorides after the bench test, he said. Lining pipes with brick and other materials rather than using stainless steel and iron pipe, which contains manganese, should solve that problem, Matusewitch said.

He didn't extend the bench test to other parts of the process such as refining the metal chlorides to metals because those processes have been done commercially.

"The technology is there in pieces. It's never been put together in one whole and commercialized," Matusewitch said.

Chlorine and metals worry some

Meanwhile, environmentalists express reservations about Keystone's plans.

Jeff Stant of the Environmental Integrity Project wants to know what Keystone will do with metals in coal and ash such as mercury, arsenic and cadmium that pose dangers to people and the environment.

"We'd be willing to look at it," Stant said of Keystone's process to extract metals from coal ash. "We'd want to see what residues are left and what they are going to do with it,".

Matusewitch said the mercury, cadmium and arsenic will vary with the sources of waste coal and ash.

"We plan on doing research and seeing what those compounds are and what to do with them," Matusewitch said.

Professor Bryce Pane of Wilkes University, a consultant for the Environmental Integrity Project, said Keystone's process sounds "theoretically reasonable."

Pane, however, estimated that the full-size plants large enough to process 1,000 tons a day of waste coal would need up to 1 million pounds of chlorine gas, which is deadly if mishandled.

"The project does appear to have merits, but does carry economic and environmental risks," Pane said.

Matusewitch, who worked in a chlorine plant for four years, said the plant will boil liquid chlorine in a rail car or one-ton cylinders in which it arrives and follow other safeguards that are standard for using chlorine. If the federal government bans the transport of chlorine, which he said is being considered, Keystone could build its own chlorine plants next to the boilers.

 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Jul 04, 2010 9:44 am 

Joined: Sat Oct 29, 2005 8:32 pm
Posts: 788
Good luck to them. Seems everybody has an idea for the culm banks every couple of years. Co gen pretty much turned those banks into a valuable commodity. And banks left ( at least up here) have been pretty much run through the breakers a few times as techology advanced. All thats left is rock.

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