New facility to research coal coming to West Virginia

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CHARLESTON, W.Va.(WSAZ) -- Gov. Jim Justice says Ramaco Carbon, a Wyoming-based carbon technology, is opening a new facility in West Virginia that will research how to use coal to create advanced carbon products and materials.

Gov. Jim Justice says Ramaco Carbon, a Wyoming-based carbon technology, is opening a new facility in West Virginia that will research how to use coal to create advanced carbon products and materials.

"West Virginia is truly blessed with an abundance of natural resources and our coal is as good and as plentiful as it gets," Justice said. "We absolutely need to continue doing all we can to harness the power of coal in every way possible and having this facility to test new ways to convert this dynamic resource is a great opportunity for all.”

"We think coal can be used to make alternative, advanced products and materials that have a much higher value than using it to produce simply power," said Ramaco CEO Randall Atkins.

Atkins says so far, one of their accomplishments is using coal instead of petroleum for products such as 3-D printers.

"So the resins that are used in 3-D printing, come from petroleum, so we're reverse engineering," Atkins tells WSAZ. "How those resins can be made from coal and we're now printing things like butts for our shotguns and ballet slippers."

Atkins also says they're looking into making things like carbon fiber, which is four times stronger than aluminum and twice as strong as steel.

"The reason it's not used today is because, it's more expensive than aluminum and steel by eight times."

He says the idea was to create platforms that can have a coal resource, a coal reserve and a production of advanced products all in the same location.

"The idea is the coal would come out of the mine and mine mouth would basically be shipped directly to a manufacturing site nearby," Atkins said. "So those can be put in any coal community and so our idea is this is a way to re-purpose coal communities."

Being a West Virginia native, he says the project is a very exciting thing for the state.

"West Virginia itself, I'm a third generation West Virginian so I'm delighted to anything we can do to help the state and of course re-purpose the industry."

They research facilities are called iCAM centers (Carbon Advanced Materials). Ramaco has another facility under development in Wyoming that is scheduled to open this summer.

Atkins says they plan on moving the facility into a pre-existing lab at the West Virginia Technology Park in South Charleston. They hope to be up and running by March 1.