SHERIDAN — A Department of Energy grant that will receive more than $1 million in federal funding aims to develop an emissions-free process to produce carbon fiber using coal. The grant’s prime recipient, Sheridan-based Ramaco Carbon, will work with TerraPower, a nuclear innovation company in Bellevue, Washington, to develop the process, which could result in significant environmental benefits.
According to Randall Atkins, CEO of Ramaco Carbon, a prime environmental benefit of the project is developing higher-value uses for coal, beyond its use in power plants.
“Our company operates under a simple mantra: ‘Coal is too valuable to burn,’” Atkins said in a press release. “Through our research we are seeking higher technology uses for the carbon from coal, which will increase its value and lower the environmental footprint from its use. Every bit of coal that’s used to create an advanced product or material like carbon fiber is moving us toward a greener future, and a stronger American economy.”
Since 2015, TerraPower has been developing processes to use the heat from nuclear reactors to improve chemical and industrial processes currently dependent on fossil fuels.
Josh Walter, project manager for Integrated Energy Systems and innovation engineer at TerraPower, explained that using carbon dioxide-free heat from nuclear can displace the emission-intensive processes used to transform biomass and fossil resources into usable products.