Heyl & Patterson Inc., a specialist engineering company headquartered in Pittsburgh, has created a new technology for coal-firing power plants that improves fuel quality, decreases volatile gas emissions, and reduces a plant’s operating expenses and maintenance costs. Called, “DryFining,” the project was led by electric service provider Great River Energy, Maple Grove, Minn., and launched in December 2009. Coal Creek Station in Underwood, N.D., operated by Great River Energy, was used as the test facility.

According to the company, “DryFining” is a combination of drying and refining. This fuel enhancement technology simultaneously dries and refines lignite, a form of coal that is softer and contains more moisture. Lignite ordinarily is burned as it is mined, but its water content causes it to produce a lower quality fuel.

 Heyl & Patterson custom-engineered a series of fluid bed dryers for the project that use waste heat from the plant’s existing processes to gently dry the lignite and cause it to burn cleaner and more efficiently. The drying process also reduces gases such as carbon dioxide and removes compounds containing sulfur and mercury.

“Utilities across the country have been seeing increases in the cost of generating and transmitting electricity, with power bills up to ten percent higher than previous years,” says Jeff Morris, vice president of Heyl & Patterson. “Our project was able to help provide a sustainable, cost-reducing solution utilizing existing energy from within the power plant.”

More than 400,000 tons of lignite has been processed since the project’s inception.