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26th September 2019, Athens, OH

A sustainable market for coal, replacing wood?

Manufacturing the coal-based composites results in lower manufacturing costs and emissions. ©

Manufacturing the coal-based composites results in lower manufacturing costs and emissions. ©

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has awarded US$ 1.5 million to an Ohio University professor to develop engineered composite decking boards from coal. Industry partners are providing an additional US$ 500,000 in funding.

Jason Trembly, Russ Professor of Mechanical Engineering and director of the Institute for Sustainable Energy and the Environment (ISEE), part of the Russ College of Engineering and Technology, aims to utilise coal in the manufacture of construction composite building materials in collaboration with Consol Energy, Engineered Profiles, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and Clear Skies Consulting.

Manufacturing the coal-based composites requires less energy – and results in lower manufacturing costs and emissions – than manufacturing commercial wood plastic composites. Also more affordable to consumers, the materials provide a new, sustainable way of using coal while meeting all applicable ASTM and International Building Code specifications.

Consol's vice president of business development and technology Dan Connell believes the initiative has the potential to open up an alternative, sustainable market for US coal.

“In line with our company’s mission, this project is keenly focused on technological innovation to create an entirely new application for coal – its use as a direct feedstock for the manufacture of building products,” said. “Ohio University’s initial research results show promise with respect to the technical, economic and environmental performance of coal plastic composites, and we look forward to getting involved with helping to advance this opportunity.”

Studies show the global plastic composite market, which is undergoing tremendous growth, is expected to reach US$ 8.76 billion by 2023. If successful, coal composite manufacturing will generate an initial new US coal demand market of over three million tons annually, along with new manufacturing jobs.

“If successful, utilising coal in the manufacture of building materials will yield a new sustainable coal end-use which minimises greenhouse gas emissions associated in manufacturing such materials, while meeting a rapidly growing consumer market sector,” said Trembly. “This project is an excellent example of OHIO’s innovative cross-cutting research programming and example of the university’s leadership in national sustainability initiatives.”

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