[On a recent trip to the Western Slope of Colorado, I had the opportunity to meet Bob McCarty who publishes at BobMcCarty.com. While our politics may differ on many issues, our fascination for the politics and technology of energy may not be as diametric. Bob sent me this post he first published last week to see if I would like to run it elsewhere.
I don't know anything about the process described below, nor do I endorse it. But, as is the case with other liquid coal technologies, my concern is that the process all but ignores the carbon content of coal, while emphasizing the cleaning of sulfur and mercury from the product.]
By Bob McCarty
During a recent flight from Denver to Grand Junction, Colo., I found myself sitting next to Harold L. Bennett, a 78-year-old civil engineer from Albuquerque. In addition to being on his way to a business meeting in Vernal, Utah, Bennett was on his way to securing the nation’s energy future.
Before the 55-minute journey on the twin-prop aircraft ended, I learned three important things from Bennett:
- First, I learned he has held the patent on the world’s only Clear Coal™ — not “clean coal” — technology since the early 1970s and has improved it twice;
- Second, I learned his technology makes it possible to convert any type or grade of coal, including scrap coal, oil shale, tar sands, etc., into three basic by-products — char, synthetic oil and gas — through one integrated process; and
- Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I learned the potential of this little-known technology is huge, especially in light of the current economic situation and increasing demand for clean energy.
I also learned that 55 minutes was not enough time to soak up every detail about Clear Coal™, so I took Bennett’s advice and set up a telephone interview with Greg Boyd.
Boyd, 47, is the de facto leader of Phoenix-based CoalSack Energy, Inc., a fledgling company launched four months ago with the express goal of taking the groundbreaking technology to market. He spoke with me for 40 minutes Wednesday afternoon during an interview that began with my request for him to role play.
“You’re in an elevator,” I explained, “when a man wearing a solid-gold ‘I love coal’ button on the lapel of his suit jacket steps into the elevator with you. Share with me the 30-second message you would share with him about CoalSack Energy and Clear Coal™ technology.”
Initially balking at the time limit available, he opened up when given more time (i.e., 60 seconds):
“I’d tell him we have a patent on low-temperature carbonization which takes out 99.2 percent of the sulfur (from a ton of coal),” Boyd explained. “The mercury is not even measurable. We’re raising the BTU by upwards of 40 percent, averaging between 28 and 40 percent. With the same ton of coal, we’re producing the highest grade of light sweet crude oil which can be turned into Jet A fuel and that we’re getting about 7,000 cubic feet of gas.”
Expanding on the “elevator speech,” he explained that Clear Coal™ technology is good for an environment in which pollutants like sulfur and mercury are becoming big problems, expensive to combat.
“Scrubbers cost 100 to 200 million (dollars) a copy,” he explained. “At the same time, when (coal) goes through the scrubber, all of the sulfur ash drops out the bottom and all the mercury goes down there.
“So what are you gonna do with that? If you can’t separate it, it has to go to some hazardous waste landfill.
“Conversely,” he said, “You can’t even measure the mercury after we process the coal.”
For a process that produces one barrel of crude per ton of coal, the potential — there’s that word again — becomes enormous, especially in terms of energy security.
“In the U.S. last year, I think we were in the neighborhood of 1.5 billion tons of coal use,” Boyd explained. “If we were cleaning a percentage of that, say 10 percent, that’s 185 million barrels a year (and) that could make a huge dent.”
Asked whether his five-person company has any competition, Boyd responded with the type of answer only the head of a company marketing revolutionary technology can give with a straight face.
“We don’t have any competition,” he said before going on to say that companies trying to operate in the same arena with CoalSack Energy have been able to remove only 60 percent of the impurities and have had problems with combustion taking place during transport of byproducts.
One might think that a company with such revolutionary technology and no competition would be going “gangbusters” from the start, but that’s not necessarily the case with CoalSack Energy.
“We’re so new with an awesome process,” Boyd explained, “we just need to get a couple million dollars of operating capital — perhaps from an investment banking firm or a coal producer or maybe a utility — and start putting up our own facilities, and then taking Clear Coal™ technology to the public market.”
In recent weeks, Boyd has met with representatives of two “big fish” entities — a commodity hedge fund and a statewide utility — that have expressed interest in the technology. While every contact with entities like those is valuable, he knows that other issues must be addressed in order to make a “go” of the company.
“What we really need is a CEO,” Boyd said, saying he hopes one day soon to be able to draw upon his diverse professional experience in the world of finance and focus on business development and trading of byproducts produced via the carbonization process. “We need someone who has a huge Rolodex®, who can call the CEO at Duke Energy, who has experience at this and can really guide the ship.”