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Coal

A train approaches the Black Thunder coal mine in March 2018 near Wright. The University of Wyoming announced a partnership with a national clean coal company late last month.

The University of Wyoming will partner with a national clean coal company on a testing facility in an effort to “assure the future of the state’s cornerstone coal industry,” the school announced late last month.

The company — Clean Coal Technologies Inc. — will put up $1 million as part of the agreement. The university, via the state and Legislature, will add $500,000. The money will be used to construct equipment at a testing facility at Gillette’s Fort Union mine and will also support studies by UW researchers. The goal is to test the company’s technology, which dries Wyoming’s coal, making it more valuable and potentially unlocking new markets for Powder River Basin coal.

“Our partnership with the university and the state of Wyoming will ensure that the test facility will be ready to commence testing of coal and will help our company move to commercialization in an expedited manner,” the company’s CEO, Robin Eves, said in a statement.

Eves praised UW’s work, which “has informed and quantified the potential of manufacturing valuable byproducts as a consequence of the coal-beneficiation process.”

The company announced it would test its technology in Campbell County last June. According to past Star-Tribune reporting, if the process can successfully dry Powder River Basin coal, then that coal can burn hotter — making it more attractive to foreign markets. That, in turn, would help prop up Wyoming’s coal industry as the market for the mineral in the U.S. continues to weaken.

Richard Horner, the director of special projects and emerging technology at UW’s School of Energy Resources, told the Star-Tribune that the school has been talking with the company for the past two and a half to three years.

“We worked with them to improve the technology and bring it to Wyoming,” he said. “The most recent agreement is a technology development collaboration agreement which is ... helping them to bring the cost down of the technology, engineer it better using our knowledge of Powder River Basin coal and to try to commercialize it in Wyoming.”

Last year, Horner told the Star-Tribune that “We need to have conclusive proof that the coal in very large volumes is able to survive the transportation and more importantly doesn’t spontaneously combust at some point either in its transport or in storage at the other end of its journey.”

In a statement accompanying the UW announcement, Horner said the school was “delighted to be associated with this first-of-a-kind and industry-leading technology.”

“We have validated that CCTI’s technology is effective and are honored that the company has placed its trust in our researchers to support the important next stage in bringing (the) technology to market,” he continued in the statement. “The university is very pleased to support CCTI in establishing the technology commercially in the Powder River Basin.”

According to UW, the coal refined by the company will not only burn hotter but will also produce “fewer harmful emissions when burned, including carbon dioxide, sulfur and mercury.”

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Education and Health Reporter

Seth Klamann joined the Star-Tribune in 2016 and covers education and health. A 2015 graduate of the University of Missouri and proud Kansas City native, Seth worked for newspapers in Milwaukee and Omaha before coming to Casper.

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