TransAlta Corp. (TSX: TA) (NYSE: TAC) on June 24 released its annual 2013 Report on Sustainability, with that report offering some details on a coal-fines recovery project at the 1,340-MW Centralia coal plant in Washington state.
TransAlta broke ground on a new coal fine recovery facility at the long-shut Centralia mine site in December 2013, in association with Coalview Ltd. LLC. The facility is designed to capture and isolate the energy value in coal fines waste. The former open-pit mine site supplied the Centralia power plant until 2006 and at peak production, produced more than 4 million tonnes per year. After 35 years of operation, approximately 18 million tonnes of waste coal fines have accumulated on the site.
Tony Briggs, Centralia mine manager, said: “This new coal fines recovery process offers several benefits—it captures the energy value remaining in the fine coal particles, enables them to generate heat to power other operations at the mine site, and will, in effect, pay for the cost of removing what was an environmental liability from our former mine site.”
The fines recovery system works by processing a slurry of coal, waste and water, using a series of centrifuges, cyclones and spirals to remove water and separate the coal fractions. From there, proprietary technologies are applied that create a salable energy product. Construction of the coal fines recovery facility is expected to be complete by the end of 2014, and it will have the ability to process 3.5 million tonnes of fines annually.
When the Centralia mine was shut in 2006, the power plant was switched entirely to burning coal railed in out of the Powder River Basin in Wyoming and Montana. U.S. Energy Information Administration data shows coal for the plant coming earlier this year from Cloud Peak Energy‘s Spring Creek and Westmoreland Coal‘s Absaloka mines in Montana, and Peabody Energy‘s Rawhide mine in Wyoming.