The KFx company product, K-Fuel™, is coal that has been treated in a pre-combustion process (we are guessing that this involves making the coal more granular, followed by an acid-wash extraction to remove heavy metals and and sulfides, followed by compression into pellets or nodules, and, finally, by heating to reduce moisture level). The result is that low-cost, low-grade coals, such as sub-bituminous coal and lignite, are made to burn more efficiently, helping customers meet their combustion device emission permits and exposing us to less toxic metal. According to the KFx website, "the K-Fuel™ beneficiation process increases the Btu’s per pound by approximately 30-40%, and it reduces mercury content on average 70%." Readers should note that heavy metal emission reductions may not be directly proportional to mercury content reductions. That said, it is certainly preferable to leave the mercury in the State of its mined origin, and in an economically controllable condition, rather than headed up the stacks of widely dispersed and poorly controlled boiler furnaces. Suprise:-- news coverage of the KFx company's recent market development planning provides anecdotal evidence that the ethanol fuel industry is about to downgrade environmental performance by switching from natural gas, needed for distillation, to cheaper coal. That means ethanol enhanced transportation fuel will have a higher C02 emission footprint per mile.The AP story also informs us that:
"The [product] coal will be shipped to utilities, hospitals and universities, mostly in Illinois, Michigan and Ohio".
A "... deal with KFx gives the Sioux Falls-based DM&E; [a railroad company] another reason to seek a $2.3 billion Federal Railroad Administration loan it has applied for".
A representative of the DM&E; railroad company, according to the AP story, "said his railroad will carry Wyoming coal to ethanol plants someday. "There are huge, huge, huge prospects of that occurring, to the point where I would say it is absolutely inevitable.""
We think it's interesting that a substantially cheaper fuel like coal needs taxpayer subsidy to "compete" with natural gas. Hmmm. Maybe someone else wishes natural gas prices to go down?
Important footnote: due to an arcane exemption in the original US hazardous waste management law called "RCRA", mineral "benefaction" processes may be considered "exempt" from some Federal reporting and treatment standards. Therefore, it falls on the those States where coal is "benefacted" to ensure that residuals of such processing are properly managed.