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16. January 2020

Battelle: Development of coal-to-foam program

Battelle has won a recent United States Department of Energy (DOE) award that has an interesting twist for coal. The DOE announced that Battelle was among its recipients in funding for cost-shared research and development projects. The project is to be executed in a parallel program with the Ohio Coal Development Office. Battelle will develop a process to convert bituminous coal into polyurethane foam products along with some low-sulfur fuel oil by-product. The results are expected to confirm the commercial viability of a coal-to-high-value solid foam products process.

The value proposition is easy to understand, said Battelle. Coal currently sells for USD 50 – 60 per ton and polyurethane foams sell for USD 5,000 – 6,000 per ton. Currently, these foams are made from petroleum products, but coal can be converted by either heat or solvents into a polyol that does the same thing, said the company.

Based on research that dates to 1974, Battelle has a patent that uses a solvent to transform coal into such a polyol. The chemical can then be used to make foams for a variety of different products, including insulation for buildings.

“This traps the carbon in the rigid insulation foam,” said Satya Chauhan, a scientist, business developer and principal investigator on the project. “This is an important project to illustrate the importance of employing a wide variety of approaches to use fossil fuels in an environmentally responsible way and reduce the amount of carbon dioxide we release into the atmosphere.”

The DOE award project number is DE-FE0031795 and the OCDO/ODSA project number is D-19-05.


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