Written by Megan Myers
April 19, 2016
Last week, Peabody Energy became the second major U.S. coal production company to file for bankruptcy so far this year. Domestic coal production statistics for last month were down 36 percent from March 2015, according to the U.S. Energy Information Association, and down four percent from the previous month.
Many analysts predict that coal production will continue to drop as natural gas becomes cheaper and the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulations on air pollution from coal-fired plants begin to take effect.
At a recent workshop sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency in Washington D.C., Nancy Heimann tried to persuade industry leaders and legislators that her company, Mexico-based Enginuity, Worldwide, has a viable solution to the coal problem. “There’s a need to have more than one type of fuel and more than one approach,” Heimann said. “If we can change the fuel so that it fits the facility, we can future-proof our utilities.”
Enginuity, which creates technology capable of harvesting the energy from agricultural byproducts such as corn stover, was one of several such biofuel research and development companies represented at the workshop April 7.
Heimann said a key virtue of the biomass pellets produced by Enginuity is they can be burned alongside coal at existing facilities, so power companies would not need to buy new equipment or adapt to new techniques. She said the workshop was an opportunity to participate in the national discussion about what comes next for utility companies. Enginuity was the only private sector biomass developer who was invited to participate.
“This is the first meeting the EPA has had on the role of biomass in power generation,” Heimann explained. “The goal was to bring together leaders in the industry to be more collaborative in the role of biomass in power generation.
“There’s a need to have more than one type of fuel and more than one approach, and that was definitely highlighted at the meeting. We get to be part of the original group of folks involved, and we were the only Midwestern biofuel company there.” She said the crowd at the workshop was very receptive to her presentation.
“It was overwhelmingly positive, we had a great deal of responses from the utility companies, and from the American Public Power Association.”
Last year, Enginuity formed a collaborative partnership with Ameren Missouri and East Central Agricultural Producers Inc. to begin building processing plants for the biofuel pellets that Heimann and her team of researchers have developed. She said she continues to look for partnerships with other utility companies in the state.
Heimann said the recent setbacks for former leaders in the coal production industry should serve as a wake-up call to the utility industry.