DOE eyes new funding for University of Kentucky coal research

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) on Dec. 19 issued a draft supplemental environmental assessment on a federally funded coal research project at the University of Kentucky.

DOE proposes, through a cooperative agreement with the University of Kentucky (UK) Center for Applied Energy Research (CAER), to partially fund the completion of the design, construction, and operation of a small-scale pilot plant for research related to the gasification of coal and coal-biomass blends and conversion of derived syngas to liquid fuels via Fischer-Tropsch (FT) synthesis.

Previously, under the terms of a different cooperative agreement, DOE provided funding for the project in support of planning, preliminary design, and construction of a new building to house the small-scale pilot plant. To support DOE’s decision to grant the previous amount of co-funding, UK and DOE prepared and issued an Environmental Assessment (EA) and Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) in 2009 and a Supplemental Analysis in 2010.

This prior EA and FONSI expressly covered only the first phase of the project and lacked coverage of the breadth of processes, equipment, feed and waste streams, accident scenarios, and safety issues. Based on continued project planning and design work under a new cooperative agreement, UK and DOE now intend to amend the existing EA to cover the remainder of the project.

The facility would be located at the existing UK’s CAER, on a parcel of land within an existing 125-acre research park near Lexington, Kentucky. This facility would support the research of coal- and coal-biomass to liquid (CBTL) fuel production, along with the costs and process impacts of CO2 control.

If approved, DOE would provide an additional $1.3m in co-funding from National Energy Technology Laboratory’s (NETL) Coal and Coal-Biomass to Liquids and Gasification Systems Programs (under DOE’s Coal Program) to pay for additional equipment and further design work.

The DOE funding would advance the construction and establishment of a small-scale pilot plant for the gasification of coal and coal-biomass blends and conversion of derived syngas to liquid fuels via FT synthesis. This proposed project is intended to evaluate the commercial and technical viability of advanced technologies for the production of FT transportation fuels and other transportation fuels from domestic coal.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.