Purdue Calumet researchers advance patent

for less costly, coke fuel-developing process

In response to a shortfall of Indiana-produced coke fuel needed by the state’s steel industry, a team of Purdue University Calumet researchers has developed a new, less costly production process that has earned a patent.

Lower cost coal

The process calls for lower cost Indiana/Illinois Basin-type coal to be blended with conventional metallurgical coals. The blending process is enhanced to meet coke quality requirements and simultaneously to obtain a specific pyrolysis gas composition. Besides benefitting steel production, the composition is suitable for producing such ancillary products as liquid transportation fuels, fertilizer, hydrogen and electricity.

“By using lower cost Indiana/Illinois Basin coal, net coal coke costs can be reduced,” Researcher, Professor of Physics and Director of the Purdue Calumet Energy Efficiency & Reliability Center Robert Kramer of Crown Point said. “This process provides a new direction and approach for future coke production that optimizes value over multiple product streams while reducing business and technological risk.”

Improved value streams

Utilization of this process enables multiple improved value streams to be produced both from a mine mouth coke facility and an existing plant, according to Kramer.

Though coke, as a solid carbon source, is essential to steel production in melting and reducing iron ore, Kramer notes there is a significant annual shortfall of 5.5 million tons of coke in the United States. That results in increased imports and drastic increases in coke prices and market volatility.

22 percent of steel

In Indiana, some 22 percent of base American steel is produced, requiring 8 million tons of coal annually for coke production. Little of that quantity is generated in-state.

“But given that Indiana/Illinois Basin-type coal is considerably less expensive than current metallurgical coal,” Kramer said, “producing coke with a blend that includes 20 to 40 percent of Indiana/Illinois coal would reduce overall production costs significantly.”

Joining Kramer on the Purdue Calumet research team were Professor of Mechanical Engineering Harvey Abramowitz of Chicago, Associate Professor of Chemistry Libbie Pelter of Schererville, and coal science inventors Hardarshan Valia and Allen Ellis.

The patent was assigned to the Purdue Research Foundation of West Lafayette.