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UW Scientist Wins Grant for Coal Conversion Research

September 11, 2014
Man holding test tube
UW Professor Maohong Fan leads a coal-conversion research project funded by the U.S. Department of Energy. (UW Photo)

A University of Wyoming professor has received funding from the U.S. Department of Energy for an innovative coal conversion project aimed at producing a synthetic gas that can be used in the production of value-added chemicals.

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 subbituminous 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 -- 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.”

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