Article Details

Source: Billings Gazette



White Energy Coal North America announced plans Monday to build a processing plant that will boost the heat value of coal mined by the Buckskin Mining Co. in northeastern Wyoming.

The agreement calls for Rockville, Md.-based White Energy to lease property and purchase coal from the Buckskin Mine near Gillette. The mine is in the southern portion of the Powder River Basin of Wyoming, the nation’s largest coal-producing state.

White Energy Coal North America, the recently incorporated U.S. subsidiary of Australia-based White Energy Company Ltd., said in a news release that the facility is estimated to cost $80 million. The company is acquiring permits with a goal of opening the plant next January and reaching full production capacity by the second quarter of 2010.

The plant would use White Energy’s “binderless coal briquetting process,” which involves crushing and drying the sub-bituminous Wyoming coal to boost its energy content while maintaining its low sulfur and low ash characteristics, the company said.

When the plant is fully operational, it would have a total annual output of 1.1 million tons, with a heat value of 22.6 trillion British thermal units. That would be an increase in heat value of 35 percent over the nonupgraded coal, the company said.

Judy Tanselle, president of White Energy Coal North America, said the company is marketing the upgraded coal to utilities around the country that burn bituminous coals.

The plant is White Energy’s first project in the U.S. market, Tanselle said. White Energy is constructing its first full-scale commercial plant using the new clean-coal technology in Indonesia and has a smaller-capacity plant using the technology in Australia, she said.

Tanselle said White Energy was attracted to the Powder River Basin because of its transportation infrastructure and large reserve of high-moisture coal.

“We don’t expect to replace PRB coal,” Tanselle said. “We’re hoping to expand its market.”

Tanselle said the company doesn’t know yet how many people the new plant would employ.

Buckskin Mining is a subsidiary of Omaha, Neb.-based Kiewit Corp. The Buckskin Mine has produced more than 350 million tons of coal since it opened in 1981.