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Harmar facility to mine 'clean coal' technology

| Monday, April 25, 2011

A Houston, Texas-based company exploring "clean coal" technologies will use a $1.3 million state grant to build a demonstration plant at U-PARC.

Accelergy Corp. will spend the next two years constructing the facility at a cost of about $5.5 million, according to a statement from state Rep. Frank Dermody, D-Oakmont.

When fully functioning, the plant will convert coal and coal waste into gasoline, diesel and jet fuel, company officials said.

The carbon dioxide created in the process will be recycled. Moreover, algae used in the process, will produce additional fuels and fertilizer.

Rocco Fiato, the company's chief technical officer, said the system "minimizes the overall greenhouse gas footprint."

He noted that environmentalists will argue "clean coal" is an oxymoron.

He was right.

"There's no such thing," said Randy Francisco, a Sierra Club official. Talking about alternative fuels, he said, "There are all these things we've already got that we could be using." He mentioned electric cars as an example.

Accelergy, however, is banking on the future of its technology. The fuel produced locally will be sent to the Air Force Research Laboratory in Ohio and the Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center in Michigan.

A company spokeswoman said she said the number of jobs to be created will not exceed 100.

The plant, while fully operational, will not produce fuel or fertilizer for commercial use.

It will give the company a chance to showcase its technology and plan for building a commercial facility in the state, company officials said.

Accelergy plans to use coal mined in the Pittsburgh region.

"Our plan is to demonstrate a very novel technology that would enable us to use the coal in Pennsylvania to replace foreign oil," Fiato said.

Accelergy's grant was awarded through the Commonwealth Financing Authority as part of the state's Alternative and Clean Energy Program.

"This is exactly the kind of smart, innovative project we need in our region," Dermody said.

U-PARC is the so-called business incubator in the former Gulf Research site along Gulf Lab Road. Affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh, the industrial park is home to fledgling companies.

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