A University of Wyoming professor has received funding from the U.S. Department of Energy for an innovative coal conversion project.

Maohong Fan, UW School of Energy Resources professor in the College of Engineering and Applied Science Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, secured the $490,000 grant for his work with Wyoming’s Powder River Basin coal.

“The overall objective of the project is to develop a new catalytic, low-cost gasification technology with negative or low net carbon dioxide emissions using Wyoming’s resources,” Fan says.

The process involves catalysts to produce a syngas containing little to no methane. This is the type of syngas needed for production of chemicals such as diesel and ethylene glycol. Fan explains that high concentrations of methane in syngas from conventional coal gasification are an obstacle to finding different uses for coal beyond traditional power generation.

“This project is designed to use a new composite catalyst prepared from Wyoming’s minerals for significant reduction of the methane in syngas,” Fan says. “Producing a syngas with zero or near-zero methane content from Powder River Basin coal would open the door to a variety of promising coal-conversion options with the potential to benefit Wyoming’s economy.”

Wyoming is the top coal producing state in the country, producing a large percentage of coal for the rest of the country, according to Mike Duncan, President and CEO of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity. He adds that Wyoming has over 20,000 jobs directly related to coal and the coal mining industry.

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