Purdue News

November 11, 2004

Coal research center issues proposals for new studies

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – The new Center for Coal Technology Research based at Purdue University is issuing nationwide requests this week for proposals from research groups to conduct studies ultimately aimed at increasing the use of Indiana coal in more environmentally friendly power plants.

The state stands to benefit economically by using more Indiana coal, importing less coal and perhaps using native coal to generate an excess of power that could be sold to other states, said Tom Sparrow, director of the state-funded center and a Purdue professor of industrial engineering and economics.

More research is needed, however, before deciding on a course of action.

The center will fund three studies, paying up to $30,000 for each, said Zuwei Yu, a Purdue senior analyst and the center's request-for-proposal administrative officer.

While Indiana contains huge coal deposits, it imports about half of the 66 million tons of coal it consumes annually. One reason for importing coal from other states is that most Indiana coal contains larger amounts of sulfur than coals found in some other states, including Wyoming, which exports coal to Indiana and elsewhere, Sparrow said.

One of the three studies will analyze the advantages and disadvantages of increasing Indiana coal consumption by using "clean-coal" technologies, in which pollutants are removed from the coal or smokestack emissions.

One low-polluting method involves technology that uses "coal gasification" and cleaning, a process in which the coal is turned into a gas to run turbines that generate electricity. The waste heat from these turbines is used to create steam, which is again used to generate electricity in steam turbines.

A second study will specifically analyze "economic factors that affect the design and implementation of clean-coal technologies in Indiana," Yu said.

To flesh out the economic factors, analysts will have to take into account different designs for low-polluting facilities, capital costs, the efficiency of designs and operating costs, he said.

The third study will analyze "key issues that encourage or inhibit the increased use of Indiana coals at existing facilities," Yu said.

"In other words, how much would it cost to upgrade existing plants so that they could use Indiana coals without increased pollution," he said.

Such research studies typically are prepared by university research groups, national laboratories and specialized consulting firms. The center is asking researchers to submit their proposals within two months. After the grants are issued, researchers must complete their studies within nine months.

Researchers may submit proposals and direct questions to the center by contacting Yu, Sparrow or analyst Brian Bowen at cctr@ecn.purdue.edu, zyu@purdue.edu or bhbowen@ecn.purdue.edu. Yu, Sparrow and Bowen may be contacted at the following phone numbers, respectively: (765) 494-4224, (765) 494-7043 and (765) 494-1873.

The center was officially created by the state in 2002 and its board of directors met for the first time earlier this year.

Indiana possesses huge coal deposits in the so-called "Illinois basin," located in the southwestern portion of the state, Sparrow said.

"At the rate we are using Indiana coal, we could continue withdrawing it for another 200 years before exhausting the supply," he said. "There is enough Illinois basin coal in Indiana to meet the entire nation's needs for the next century."

Writer: Emil Venere, (765) 494-4709, emil_venere@purdue.edu


Sources: Frederick T. Sparrow, (765) 494-7043, fts@ecn.purdue.edu

Brian Bowen, (765) 494-1873, bhbowen@ecn.purdue.edu

Zuwei Yu, (765) 494-4224, zyu@ecn.purdue.edu


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