Call to Order and Roll Call
The3rd meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Natural Resources and Energy was held on Thursday, August 3, 2017, at 1:00 PM, at the UK Center for Applied Energy Research (CAER). Representative Jim Gooch Jr., Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Members:Representative Jim Gooch Jr., Co-Chair; Senators C.B. Embry Jr. and Brandon Smith, Representatives Larry Brown, McKenzie Cantrell, Matt Castlen, Jeffery Donohue, Jim DuPlessis, Daniel Elliott, Chris Fugate, Dennis Keene, Reginald Meeks, Suzanne Miles, and Jill York.
Guests: Rodney Andrews, CAER, Director; Michael Portwood, Minova, President; Bob Jewell, CAER, Research Program Manager; Matt Weisenberger, CAER, Associate Director; and Jack Groppo, CAER, Principal Research Engineer, UK Mining Engineering Faculty.
Overview and Introductions
Rodney Andrews provided a brief overview of the research focuses of CAER, which included environmental protection, utilization of coal and ash waste, expanding the use of renewable energy, energy reliability, efficiency gains in electric generation, energy security, and economic and workforce development.
The CAER Power Generation Groupís mission is to develop technologies for continuous use of fossil resources with a primary focus on removing carbon dioxide from coal production. The Carbon Management Research Group is a consortium of utilities and the Electric Power Research Institute that supports this work at CAER. Kentucky has invested $8 million in CAER for an overall economic impact of $78 million. A $4 million investment was just received from the Department of Energy, and two funding opportunities in carbon management are expected in the near future.
The Biofuels and Environmental Catalysis Group is developing renewable fuel sources to reduce the environmental impact of energy production. One of the projects focuses on using microalgae to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. There is a pilot facility at East Bend Power Station to research how to use microalgae to capture carbon dioxide and use solar energy to convert it to other products. China is utilizing this licensed technology for the production of food using algae as a food additive. Algae are very high in protein and carbohydrates.
The Clean Fuels and Chemicals Group is an internationally recognized open access testing facility for gas to liquid catalysis. Petroleum companies use this site for their testing.
The Organic (carbon-based) Electronics Group is researching low-cost solutions for energy harvesting. One project focuses on utilizing organic solar cells, which are similar to paint materials. This can be used to retrofit buildings for solar energy production.
In response to Senator Smith, Mr. Andrews stated that scenedesmus is the type of algae being used for testing since it is fluid and floats. They are using naturally-occurring algae rather than introducing a new organism.
In response to Representative DuPlessis, Mr. Andrews stated that their focus is on collaboration with industry, since about one-third of their funding comes from industrial sources, and they work with industry to leverage federal funding for projects.
High Value Cementitious Materials from Coal Ash
Bob Jewell stated that the task of the Cementitious Materials Group is to find ways to use coal combustion byproducts for beneficial utilization. Their primary push is for low-energy, low-carbon dioxide cement and concrete. This cement can be used for ultra-high performance fiber-reinforced concrete. This sprayable concrete can be used for critical infrastructure repair and military purposes.
Kentucky consumed approximately 34 million tons of coal for electric power in 2015, which produced 7.7 million tons of coal ash. Coal ash is utilized at a rate of 21 percent, with the remaining deposited into landfills or ponds. The national rate of utilization of coal ash is 52 percent. There is growing demand for coal ash, and Kentucky is well-positioned to help meet this demand because of its many coal ash ponds that contain reclaimable coal ash material.
The largest volume of concrete is used in the transportation construction market. One-fourth of the interstate highway system is paved in concrete. Fly ash in concrete increased from 13.1 million tons in 2014 to 15.7 million tons in 2015. Kentucky consumes approximately 1.1 million tons of Portland cement annually, which equates to approximately 418,000 tons of fly ash.
Fly ash concrete (FAC) increases durability and decreases expense, since roads constructed with it need to be repaired less often. The life span for concrete with fly ash is 30 to 60 years, as opposed to concrete without fly ash, which lasts only 20 to 25 years. The estimated savings are $25 billion over 20 years if all concrete roadways were designed with FAC to last 35 years, and savings could amount to $33.5 billion over 20 years with a 40-year life span.
In response to Representative DuPlessis, Mr. Jewell stated fly ash is an amorphous material that is primarily silica. They are using dry scrubbers instead of wet scrubbers, so they do not have to manage a waste water component.
In response to Representative Gooch, Mr. Jewell stated that ultra-high-performance materials are highly-engineered materials, and they are used for specialty applications. If the performance is high, then there is no reason to limit the amount of coal ash in concrete. Instead, performance standards should be set, and any concrete meeting those standards should be permitted, regardless of its coal ash composition.
In response to Representative Brown, Mr. Jewell stated roads made with coal ash are chemically more resistant, particularly on bridge decks.
Michael Portwood stated Minova is a subsidiary of Orica Mining Services which is one of the largest manufacturers of explosives products. It is a 135 year old company that supports the mining industry. Collaboration between universities and the private sector to create a commercial product is critical to its success.
The Department of Homeland Security reached out to the University of Kentucky to create a rapid-hardening cement that is a spray application. If a terrorist attack occurred, the spray can be applied on any surface to create a structure that acts like a steel beam, which would allow first responders to enter the building within fifteen minutes. The product has been commercialized as TekCrete Fast, and the patent was granted in March 2016. The product will expand into more markets including bridge and dam repair, as well as underground mining.
TekCrete Fast has multiple product families including TekCrete Armor. This is an application that the Department of Defense can utilize. If a runway is bombed it can be repaired in twenty minutes using the concrete spray. A helicopter pad can be created in twenty minutes by spraying concrete on any surface, including grass. The product acts more like a steel than a cement.
In response to Representative Miles, Mr. Portwood stated shotcrete is currently being used in the mines and creates a six-inch thickness opposed to TekCrete that creates a two-inch thickness. TekCrete is a cheaper and stronger material.
In response to Representative Castlen, Mr. Portwood stated the concrete spray shrinks more than it expands.
In response to Representative York, Mr. Portwood stated that concrete structures can be created for military use and refugee camps. The structures are created quickly in the event of a catastrophic disaster.
In response to Representative Miles, Mr. Portwood stated the material is not easily destroyed. It is similar to concrete in the way it would need to be removed.
Coal to Carbon Fiber
Matt Weisenberger stated that the method he is researching to create carbon fiber involves removing the hydrocarbon from coal. The idea is to create a highly versatile product from coal. Carbon fiber material is very lightweight. It is used in the automotive industry to design cars with higher fuel efficiency. Other applications of the product include aerospace and outer space design to create lightweight planes and satellites.
There is significate value to transforming coal into fiber. Coal (for coke) is valued at $100/ton and fiber is valued at $2 million/ton. Mitsubishi in Japan is currently using this technology.
The project is a collaboration between the CAER and the University of Utah with funding from the Department of Commerce Economic Development Authority. Total funding for the project is $1.58 million over three years.
In response to Representative Gooch, Mr. Weisenberger stated there are only three machines in the world that make the fiber, and that one is at CAER.
Rare Earth Elements from Domestic Coal and Coal Byproducts
Jack Groppo stated that rare earth elements (REE) are actually very common; however, they are rarely found in high concentrations. REE are utilized in magnetics, phosphors, metal alloys, catalysts, ceramics, glass, and defense.
China has a worldwide monopoly on REE that gives them the opportunity to dictate the price. The United States had minor production a couple of years ago while production in Australia is increasing. Since China controls the supply, the United States is turning to coal where REE can form to hopefully increase domestic production. The Department of Energy (DOE) considers neodymium, europium, terbium, dysprosium, and yttrium to be critical elements to renewable energy development.
The Fire Clay Seem in eastern Kentucky has been mined for the last 40 years. A volcanic eruption in the Yucatan deposited a tonstein layer that is rich in REE phosphate minerals. REE are more concentrated in rock layers, while heavier rare earth elements are more prevalent in coal layers.
The DOE-solicited projects for processing fly ash and enriching coal ash are currently under review for Phase 2 funding with $6 million over 48 months.
In response to Representative DuPlessis, Mr. Groppo stated there are bins at local hardware stores to deposit used batteries and the recycling rate is very high. There needs to be more public awareness on how to recycle electronic waste. In 2008 China decided to no longer export raw materials, but will export the products.
In response to Representative Donohue, Mr. Groppo stated he recycles plastic. In Jessamine County it is separated from other materials, which makes it easy to recycle. The problem is when the public is too cheap to pay for recycling pick-up, they will use the community recycle bins. The solution is public education and awareness, not a mandate.
The next meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Natural Resources and Energy will be at Kentucky American Water in Lexington, Kentucky on September 7, 2017. Documents distributed during the meeting are available in the LRC Library.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned.