Columbus, Ohio-based research group Battelle has been awarded a grant by the U.S. Department of Energy to develop a process that would eventually make polyurethane foam from coal.
Battelle, in collaboration with the Ohio Coal Development Office, will use research first developed in the early 1970s to make polyols from bituminous coal. It would also make low-sulfur fuel oil as a by-product. The coal to polyol process is solvent based, the company says. It was originally patented in 1974.
Battelle hopes the research project will confirm the commercial viability of a coal-to-high-value solid foam products process. Coal currently sells for $50-60 per ton, it says, compared to the $5,000-6,000 per ton it cites for PU foam products.
"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," said Satya Chauhan, the project's principal investigator, in a Nov. 25 news release.