Keep coal burning, but reduce the footprint

Technology pioneers provide sustainable solutions in the form of cleaner coal

by Jillian Clark
Workers tend the Pristine-M test facility operating at the AES Coal Fired Energy facility near Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Workers tend the Pristine-M test facility operating at the AES Coal Fired Energy facility near Tulsa, Oklahoma. — photo courtesy of CCTI

The world has been asking for sustainable energy sources for quite some time now. Solar power, wind power—all of these seem like great options, but the fact remains that the complete elimination of fossil fuels is a work in progress with an indefinite end point. We know there is a problem; now Clean Coal Technologies Inc. (CCTI) is ready to offer both a domestic and an international solution.

Robin Eves, president and CEO of CCTI, and Aiden Neary, COO and CFO of CCTI, both place high expectations on the sustainable applications of CCTI’s patented Pristine M processes—expectations that have recently been proven by successful tests at their test plant in Oklahoma. “It could be a game changer not only for the United States, but globally,” Eves said. “It could contribute to the sustainability of coal as a major energy source.”

Like many others in mining, Eves and Neary openly admit that coal isn’t going anywhere—it is here to stay. The real focus should be directed to how we make these resources both sustainable and environmentally friendly. At the same time, they hope to supply an affordable and economically efficient system for coal mining and power companies to adopt now that their test phases are complete. “Economics and the environment do not need to be mutually exclusive,” Neary said. “There are ways to reduce the environmental footprint, and at the same time, make a product that is economically viable.”

The solution requires cleaner, more efficient coal—something the mining industry has chased for years. “Our patented process of stabilization is what differs us from the competition,” said Eves. The process is simple: CCTI dehydrates the coal—like many companies have done before—but CCTI also produces a stable and clean product that burns less coal, more efficient coal, and cleaner coal.

The general idea is nothing new: moisture is removed so that less coal is necessary to produce the same power. What is different in this process is the stable and clean final product. There is no dust or ash. The coal is literally clean to the touch. This aspect of CCTI’s results will aid in the transportation of coal across North America by eliminating the debris associated with coal movement in trucks, trains and barges.

CCTI’s patented process overcomes the challenges of messy reconstruction that others have faced. While others have tried to crush the coal before dehydrating and cleaning, CCTI leaves the coal intact. “It looks like a pumice stone,” Eves said. “Then we take the same DNA, essentially the same coal, and put it back into the brick. This absolutely seals the coal.” By retaining the identity of the coal throughout the dehydration process, they eliminate the need to use environmentally unfriendly sealants while reconstructing the bricks.

The plants themselves mitigate the industry challenge of meeting large scales after the initial testing period is complete. Some companies have a difficult time “scaling up” to meet demands and standards: “It’s modular, so we don’t have to build a million-ton plant,” said Eves. “You can actually build an operating plant of 160,000 tons per year, going for about 17 or 18 million dollars, then add another modular to it, building it up as much as you want.” This modular design further complements CCTI’s unique and innovative twist on traditional solutions.

Arriving at these results was far from easy. Seven years of development, including five months of testing with two main goals, led to this point: “The first purpose was to prove that the science actually works on a large scale,” said Neary. “That was successful.” Next, the scientists and engineers of CCTI moved on to find new ways of further enhancing and optimizing the coal, implementing a couple of process changes. Success on both fronts has led to a global interest in their coal dehydration process.

CCTI is currently in discussion to move its test facility to a permanent location where it would carry on with new tests. “We intend to continue testing on a global scale,” said Neary. Not all coal is the same, so other countries could send samples of their coal to CCTI’s test plant to determine if the Pristine M process would work for them.

“We certainly believe that the sustainability of coal is important to the global market,” said Eves. “We also fully believe that the sustainability of coal is going to be determined by the technology that is being developed right now.” CCTI’s Pristine M process marks the forefront of a wave that wants to keep clean, efficient and environmentally friendly coal burning.

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