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Billings Gazette Cowboy Coal (FMI) Dunlop Photo
Cowboy Coal
With inventor Don Dunlop, WRI tested a unique process for drying and upgrading Western coal. 
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Upgrading low-rank coal reduces CO2 emissions and has the potential to create a competitively priced commercial fuel. The Cowboy Coal Upgrading Process patented by River Basin Energy, Inc., formerly Fuels Management Inc., is more efficient than other coal upgrading methods. This innovative process has been tested at WRI’s state-of-the-art facilities, and an onsite pilot-scale demonstration is underway. The process involves heating coal in a near atmospheric pressure, bubbling fluidized bed-based reactor. Coal processing occurs at about 600 °F, and the process heat required is derived from the coal itself. Precise control of the bed temperature and amount of oxygen in the fluidizing gas is critical.

This upgrading technology allows high through-puts and thereby reduces processing costs. Coals from Montana, South Dakota, North Dakota, Colorado and Alaska have all been tested, yet Wyodak coal was primarily used. On the basis of tests conducted in WRI’s 400-pph bench-scale facility, which optimized controlled oxidizing conditions, the U.S. Department of Energy approved further development of the Cowboy Coal technology.

For the next phase, a 100-ton per day coal upgrading plant in Louisville, Kentucky, was dismantled and moved to WRI’s Advanced Technology Center in Laramie, Wyoming, where it is being reassembled to demonstrate the commercial viability and economics of the Cowboy Coal Upgrading Process. Long-range plans call for again moving the pilot plant—to a mine site for sustained, long-term operation.

For further information on this unique coal upgrading process or the pilot plant at WRI’s Advanced Technology Center click here.


Basin River Energy, Inc. 
Contact :
Vijay K. Sethi
Senior Vice President
Energy Production and Generation

(307) 721-2376
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