From culm to clean fuel?
$312 million ideal could translate into $1.10-a-gallon gas
Northeast Pennsylvania Business Journal
One lump of coal equals one pint of gas. The idea sounds so simple you might wonder why
nobody came up with it before.
According to John W. Rich, Jr., it doesn't matter -- let's just do it.
Rich, president of Reading Anthracite Co. and waste Management & Processors, Inc., in Schuylkill
County, claims technology now exists to convert coal mining's solid byproducts to gas, creating
high-quality liquid fuel.
It's an efficient process, he says, that uses a carbon and water mixture. The amount of available
raw material in northeastern Pennsylvania makes for incredible potential, he points out.
"One ton of reserves amounts to four barrels of finished product. We're sitting on a 19-barrel oil
field. Alaska, by comparison, was a 12-billion barrel discovery," Rich proclaims.
The benefits? Cheaper gas, the security of home-produced fuel and a greener environment.
The new technology would have lots of spin-off benefits, Rich asserts. Gone will be the black
mountains called culm banks that ruin the region's scenery. Gone will be pools of polluted water. Gone
will be choking black dust.
Instead, they'll be replaced by green spaces where homes can be built and kids can run. It'd create
places where roads, shopping centers, schools, churches, parks and playgrounds can be built where
today the land has no use, he claims.
"Think of it as a major environmental reclamation project that just happens to produce some
clean fuel in the process," Rich notes.
Coal conversion processes, specifically coal gasification and liquefaction, are technologies that
have been adapted from production methods used for decades. It's a process being used successfully
today in South America. The procedure converts coal mining waste, like culm, into liquid fuel
products that are environmentally safe. The new product, Ultra Clean Fuels, contains zero percent
sulfur and nitrogen, is low in aromatics and has a high cetane, or energy density rating.
Foreign oil has us over the barrel - Rich feels that now is the time to act, especially after the
Oilgate episode this past winter, when prices for heating oil jumped to outrageous levels just when
consumers needed it most.
The price of gasoline also soared, putting a dent in monthly commuting budgets.
Ultra Clean Fuels is the answer, Rich asserts. The new fuel would have a major impact in reducing
U.S. dependence on foreign oil sources -- an impact he believes would be instantaneous because Oil
Producing and Exporting Countries (OPEC) would sit up and take notice.
"OPEC knows it's a seller's market. When they see we have legislation in the works to produce
our own fuel at home, they'll have an immediate response," Rich predicts.
In a sense, OPEC's greediness will bring about OPEC's demise, Rich asserts. "They arbitrarily
conspire to drive up the price of oil and that's what will result in their own destruction," he claims.
Rich's $312 million proposed industry would produce 5,000 barrels of clean, useable liquid
hydrocarbon transportation fuel each day, or 1.4 million barrels a year. No vehicle modifications
would be required and the new fuel would sell for $1.10 a gallon.
The state and federal governments need to finalize legislation that would grant tax incentives to
make the $312 million project economically viable, says John Rich, president of Reading Anthracite
Co. and Waste Management & Processors, Inc., based in Schuylkill County.
A new future for King Coal - Rich believes the liquefaction/gasification process would re-energize
domestic coal production, create high-quality jobs, improve job security and productivity, and result
in numerous spin-off benefits throughout the economy.
For instance, sulfur extracted during the process could be used for manufacturing and for
commercial purposes. Another byproduct, a crushed, glass-like aggregate, can be used in the
manufacture of concrete, mortar and plaster.
But the main products, Ultra Clean Fuels, would grow into a business that would help sustain the
region and provide an industrial backbone, Rich feels.
Specifically, Rich projects, the industry would create 1,000 construction jobs over five years, plus
150 permanent operating jobs, 600 secondary jobs in support and services and an annual payroll of
more than $22 million. Permanent jobs over 20 years would generate $136.7 million in wages and
$410 million in payroll for secondary jobs.
The state would recoup $15.3 million in personal income taxes and $30.6 million in sales taxes
over the period.
Rich says the technology would help to improve the environment because Ultra Clean Fuels are
cleaner in both production and consumption than standard fossil fuels.