The Urethane Blog

Government Work

Battelle To Develop Coal-to-Foam Program

Posted on Nov 25, 2019

COLUMBUS, Ohio (Nov. 25, 2019)—Battelle won a recent United States Department of Energy (DOE) award that has an interesting twist for coal.

The DOE announced that Battelle was among its recipients in funding for cost-shared research and development projects. The project is to be executed in a parallel program with the Ohio Coal Development Office. Battelle will develop a process to convert bituminous coal into polyurethane foam products along with some low-sulfur fuel oil by-product. The results are expected to confirm the commercial viability of a coal-to-high-value solid foam products process.

The value proposition is easy to understand: Coal currently sells for $50 to $60 a ton and polyurethane foams sell for $5,000 to $6,000 per ton. Currently, these expensive foams are made from petroleum products, but coal can be converted by either heat or solvents into a polyol that does the same thing.

Based on research that dates to 1974, Battelle has a patent that uses a solvent to transform coal into such a polyol. The high-value chemical can then be used to make foams for a variety of different products, including insulation for buildings, which is good for the environment.

“This traps the carbon in the rigid insulation foam,” said Satya Chauhan, a scientist, business developer and principal investigator on the project. “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.”

The DOE award project number is DE-FE0031795 and the OCDO/ODSA project number is D-19-05.