White taking big PRB steps

ASX-listed White Energy has confirmed receipt of the construction and operation permit for its planned 1.3 million tonne per annum coal upgrading plant near Gillette, Wyoming.

Donna Schmidt

The approval for the facility, which will neighbor the Buckskin Mining complex, was awarded by the Division of Air Quality of the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality.

The new Powder River Basin plant will incorporate its binderless coal briquetting (BRB) technology; White officials said that PRB coal generally contained higher moisture and a low calorific value, or ideal for upgrading.

BRB will, in turn, upgrade the coal by reducing moisture from 25%-30% to between 8% and 10% and increase heat value.

“Several companies in the PRB, such as Buckskin, are focused on the sale of upgraded coal to domestic customers in the U.S,” managing director and chief executive officer Brian Flannery said.

“On the other hand, a number of other US coal producers have been planning to export this vast resource of coal to Asian power industry customers.

Only a small quantity is currently railed to Canada and exported out of Vancouver, as there is currently a lack of port capacity on the west coast of the US.”

He noted that the company will be working closely alongside Buckskin to seek new marketing methods as well.

In the meantime, there is no set timeline for the plant to become reality.

“Achieving this permit is the first important step in developing a new industry in the PRB,” Flannery said.

“However, there are no plans to commence construction of a BCB plant until there is a clear market option for this upgraded coal,” he said.

“The domestic market in the US is currently depressed and does not provide a commercial opportunity at the present time.”

BCB is a mechanical process used to upgrade high moisture, low value sub-bituminous and lignite coals, through a process of dehydration and compaction, to a dense, physically and chemically stable briquette with higher energy content and value which can be handled like normal coal.

The news of the plant is the second big announcement for Australian-based White Energy in as many months; in October, officials confirmed it had acquired Kentucky producer Mountainside Coal in a $US20 million deal.

The transaction gives White 100% of Mountainside’s stock, with White required to pay an additional $700,000 to replace current reclamation bonds over Kentucky permits.

Mountainside operated several mines, producing about 400,000 tonnes of coal per annum for sale to industrial customers in the US and Canada.