Governor Jim Justice has announced an agreement with Ramaco Carbon to open a new research facility in West Virginia to pursue research related to the use of coal as the precursor for advanced carbon products and materials.
“I am excited beyond belief to welcome Ramaco Carbon’s next incredible research facility to our great state. It’s a complete game-changer for us and, really, the entire country,” Justice said during his state-of-the-state address Wednesday.
“West Virginia is truly blessed with an abundance of natural resources and our coal is as good and as plentiful as it gets. We absolutely need to continue doing all we can to harness the power of coal in every way possible and having this facility to test new ways to convert this dynamic resource is a great opportunity for all.”
This will be the second such coal research facility that Ramaco Carbon currently has under development, which are called iCAM centers (Carbon Advanced Materials). The first research center, located in Sheridan, Wyoming, is under construction and is scheduled to open this summer.
In recent years, Ramaco Carbon has also built a national network of research support at universities, scientific institutes, the Department of Energy’s National Labs and other government organizations to support the fast-evolving field of “coal-to-products.”
In this manner, coal is used in innovative and environmentally friendly processes to create higher-value products and materials. One of the company’s mantras is: “Coal is too valuable to burn.”
The U.S. Department of Energy announced last September that Ramaco was the recipient or a sub-recipient of over $5 million in new federal grants to support these efforts.
“We are excited about the transformative potential of these projects,” said Steven Winberg, Department of Energy Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy.
“Advancing this coal R&D is paving the way for future technology innovation and integration.”
Randall Atkins, Ramaco Carbon’s Chairman and CEO, thanked Governor Justice for West Virginia’s forward-thinking support.
“The research that we will conduct in West Virginia has potentially far-reaching national economic and strategic implications,” said Atkins.
“We are deeply appreciative of the Governor’s vote of confidence in our contributions to these research efforts and we look forward to further cementing the Ramaco 'family' of coal interests in West Virginia. We will rapidly proceed to open our eastern research facility to be located in Charleston and hope to utilize both the valuable coal and existing research resources that the state has to offer.”
On the DOE research grants on which it’s lead, Ramaco is partnered with TerraPower—a nuclear innovation company based in Bellevue, Washington—to create a manufacturing process for transforming coal to carbon fiber.
Ramaco is also partnered with HTI-Axens of Princeton, New Jersey—a global provider of refining technology—on a grant for producing pitch from coal for use in the production of carbon fibers.
The company is in its second year as the industry partner on a separate $5 million DOE-funded grant project in Wyoming nicknamed “Coal to Cars.” The project is aimed at using coal as a precursor to lower the cost of manufacturing carbon fiber for use in the automotive industry.
Earlier this year, the National Coal Council was asked by U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry to study new markets for “coal to products.”
Atkins was chosen by the NCC to Chair this report, which was titled “Coal in the New Carbon Age: Powering a Wave of Innovation in Advanced Products and Manufacturing.” The report was delivered to Secretary Perry in May.
“The Department of Energy is committed to advancing technologies that will allow us to meet our energy needs in an environmentally responsible way,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry at the time DOE grants were announced.
“We will continue our commitment to investing in research, development, and demonstration initiatives to drive these innovative clean coal technologies forward.”
Privately held, Ramaco Carbon has, over the past seven years, created the nation’s first vertically integrated “coal technology” entity combining coal resources, research, and manufacturing under one platform.
The company is an affiliate of publicly traded Ramaco Resources Inc., which has existing metallurgical coal production operations in southern West Virginia and employs over 400 individuals.