Utah coal has always been valued for its low sulfur content, but many mines in the Wasatch Plateau region produce a coal considered less desirable due to high concentrations of resin.
The Wasatch Plateau field, however, is now being regarded as more valuable because of the resin content, thanks to the work of Jan Miller, a University of Utah professor of metallurgical engineering.Few of the world's coal fields contain significant resin deposits. While coal is a relatively cheap fuel source, when it contains large quantities of resin, Miller said Monday, it is "detrimental because it causes the coal to burn dirty, or to smoke."
And Miller has developed a process for recovering the resin, "making it a substantial economic target."
The field's coal production is approximately 10 million tons annually. And roughly 100,000 tons of the total output is resin.
The substance has been recovered on and off since l929. But Miller said no technique used in the past has proven efficient enough to produce a continuous supply.
The conventional flotation processes - mixing pulverized coal with water - recovered only about half of the resin, and that product was only about 50 percent pure.
The new process, said Miller, will dramatically increase annual quantity and quality, allowing a new plant being built by CPS Printing Ink Co., Wellington, Carbon County, to recover at least 12,000 tons of resin.
Miller and his research group have developed a selective flotation process to recover fossil resin from coal after the coal has been ground into dust.
"The trick is controlled and selective oxidation," he said, using ozone in a chemical oxidation process to separate the two "and resulting in a substantial recovery of resin."
Once the new CPS plant is in operation and resin users realize a reliable source is available, he said, the market should increase and allow CPS to expand its operations further, even to worldwide markets.