Ramaco Carbon is partnering with Oak Ridge National Laboratory to develop new, large-scale processes for making graphite from coal. The efforts on graphite are part of a larger research partnership between Ramaco and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory over the past three years, exploring a wide range of alternative uses of coal to make higher-value carbon products and materials.
The conversion of coal to higher value materials, such as graphene, graphite or carbon nanotubes, is of high interest, and a number of researchers have proposed processes. Researchers at the University of Wyoming, for example, developed a process to convert coal powder to graphite using a microwave oven, while researchers at The George Washington University have proposed another method to convert coal to battery-grade graphite.
The new two-year project is funded jointly by Ramaco Carbon and ORNL via a DOE Fossil Energy & Carbon Management Program Field Work Proposal, and it will focus on scaling up to commercial level a process that has already shown success at the bench scale at ORNL.
Activities to be led by Ramaco include the use of specialized equipment at its iCAM research facility in Wyoming to prepare feedstocks for the process using coal from the mines of its parent company, the publicly traded metallurgical coal producer Ramaco Resources, Inc.
At its core, the research is focused on harnessing carbon, the key building block for synthetic graphite and many other products. Today, this carbon is typically derived from more expensive petroleum and related petrochemical feedstocks. The goal of this joint research project is to build upon previous research by both organizations and develop a novel process that uses the carbon in coal as a feedstock instead.
A technoeconomic analysis being prepared by researchers at ORNL suggests that the novel process will be less expensive compared to the petroleum-based alternative.
In this project, the team is focused on scaling up and commercializing a technology that was originally developed under the sponsorship of DOE’s Basic Energy Sciences program, which supports fundamental research to provide the foundations for new energy technologies.
Ramaco Carbon is a carbon technology company, based in Sheridan, Wyoming, with operations in both Wyoming and West Virginia. It has focused on the use of coal to create advanced carbon products and materials, such as carbon fibers, building products, rare earth minerals, and graphene-based life science products.
The company is building a vertically integrated carbon tech platform, which includes the Brook Mine, the iCAM research park campuses in Wyoming and West Virginia, and the future iPark mine-mouth manufacturing facilities.