Energy Department Announces Additional $3M for Projects to Create New Market Opportunities for Coal


The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Fossil Energy (FE) has selected three additional projects to receive approximately $3 million in federal funding for cost-shared research and development projects. These projects are supported through the funding opportunity announcement (FOA) DE-FOA-0001992, Maximizing the Coal Value Chain.  

The projects will develop innovative uses of domestic coal for upgraded coal-based feedstocks used to produce power and to make steel and high-value products—ultimately creating new market opportunities for coal. These projects will support FE’s Advanced Energy Systems Program.

DOE’s National Energy Technology Laboratory will manage the projects, which are described below.

1. Coal as Value Added for Lithium Battery AnodesSemplastics EHC, LLC (Seminole, FL) will complete the development of a novel composite material specifically targeted for use in lithium ion (Li-ion) battery anodes using U.S. coal as the feedstock. A new material based on Semplastics’ X-MAT® polymer-derived ceramic technology shows promise for use in Li-ion battery anodes. The objective of this work is to find the best formulation for technical performance and economic viability, thereby preparing this material for the marketplace.

DOE Funding: $749,942; Non-DOE Funding: $187,500; Total Value: $937,442

2. Laboratory-Scale Coal-Derived Graphene ProcessThe University of North Dakota (Grand Forks, ND) will demonstrate a laboratory-scale coal-derived graphene process to produce graphene oxide, reduced graphene oxide, and graphene quantum dots starting from domestic U.S. coal. The steps to meet the proposed objective include: 1) coal pretreatment with methods developed by the University’s Energy & Environment Research Center; 2) graphitization of treated coal products; 3) exfoliation of graphite to graphene; 4) an economic feasibility analysis; and 5) analysis of product target markets and technology gaps. These processes will be applied to anthracite, bituminous, subbituminous, and lignite coals to advance the current state of technology, as well as maximize the coal value chain.

DOE Funding: $744,064; Non-DOE Funding: $186,016; Total Value: $930,080

3. Sub-Pilot-Scale Production of High-Value Products from U.S. CoalsThe University of Utah (Salt Lake City, UT) will 1) scale up and verify lab-scale developments on the production of isotropic and mesophase coal-tar pitch for carbon fiber production, using coals from five U.S. coal-producing regions located in Utah, Wyoming, West Virginia, Arkansas, and Illinois; 2) investigate the production of a high-value silicon carbide by-product using residual coal char from the tar production process; and 3) develop an extensive database and suite of tools for data analysis and economic modeling to relate process conditions to product quality, and to assess the economic viability of coals from different regions for producing specific high-value products. This effort aims to provide a low-cost carbon fiber product from coal for potential use in the automotive industry and other important markets. This project could also lead to new economic development opportunities for communities with coal-based economies.

DOE Funding: $1,499,880; Non-DOE Funding: $432,615; Total Value: $1,932,495

The selected projects will join ten other projects chosen under this FOA in September of 2019 that received approximately $10.2 million in federal funding.

The Office of Fossil Energy funds research and development projects to reduce the risk and cost of advanced fossil energy technologies and further the sustainable use of the nation’s fossil resources. To learn more about the programs within the Office of Fossil Energy, visit the Office of Fossil Energy website or sign up for FE news announcements. More information about the National Energy Technology Laboratory is available on the NETL website.

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