Heyl & Patterson Blog

Heyl & Patterson Joins Energy Alliance of Greater Pittsburgh

Posted by H&P Blog on Wed, Jan 16, 2013 @ 10:20 AM

Energy Alliance LogoThe Pittsburgh area is in the unique position to deliver innovative solutions that address the energy needs of the region, the United States and the world, with a rich portfolio of assets.  The region enjoys a competitive advantage in natural resources, supply chain presence and innovation in the energy sectors of coal, natural gas, nuclear, wind, solar, electricity distribution and transmission, and intelligent building technologies.

This potential is best realized by collaboration across business, government and academia to drive the public policy, business climate and innovation that is necessary to advance the area's global leadership.  The Energy Alliance of Greater Pittsburgh is a partnership of traditional and alternative energy companies that are all global leaders in their respective fields.  An initiative of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development and Innovation Works, its goal is to collaborate across the scope of Pittsburgh's energy economy, provide a voice at the state and federal level and identify the next generation of energy technologies.

Heyl & Patterson has a long history of working with the energy industry, and as of 2013 is a member of the Energy Alliance.  Formed in 1887, Heyl & Patterson was built on processing coal and transferring it from railroads and river barges to power plants and steel mills.  More recent developments have included other forms of coal, as well as wood, shale gas and oil sands.


DryFining created a new technology for coal-fired power plants that improves fuel quality.  The process refines low-grade lignite to be more usable as fuel, while it decreases volatile gas emissions and reduces a plant’s operating expenses and maintenance costs.  “DryFining” is the combination of drying and refining, and simultaneously dries and refines lignite, which a form of coal that is softer and contains more moisture.  Lignite is ordinarily Lignite Fluidbed Dryerburned as it is mined, but its water content causes it to produce a lower quality fuel.

The DryFining project was led by electric service provider Great River Energy of Maple Grove, MN.  Great River's Coal Creek Station in Underwood, ND was the test facility.  Heyl & Patterson custom-engineered a series of Fluid Bed Dryers for the project, which use waste heat from the plant’s existing processes rather than expensive primary fuel, 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 sulphur and mercury, making the fuel less volatile and of higher quality.  The alternative would be to add to existing emissions control equipment at considerable capital and operating expense, which would drive up the cost of power to consumers.  If adopted by new and existing power plants, this technology can significantly reduce air emissions.

Wood Torrefaction

Biomass represents the world’s largest renewable resource.  Torrefaction of wood biomass is the thermo-chemical process that reduces the moisture content of wood biomass and increases its energy density, transforming it into a blackened material resembling charcoal.  The energy-dense resulting product can be co-fired with coal in electric power plants, or used alone as a total replacement for coal.

Heyl & Patterson torrefies wood through mild pyrolysis within a Rotary Calciner at temperatures of 500-600° F (260-320° C).  This removes water and low boiling-point organics and partially breaks down the cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin within the wood.  Reaction gases can be captured and used as a supplemental fuel source for the process itself.  The  torrefaction process essentially transforms wood into a form of man-made coal.

Shale Gas

To reach gas that was previously thought to be unreachable, pressure is used to fracture or "frac" rock formations deep underground to allow a better flow of gas through a well.  When the pressure is removed, the fracture closes, which dramatically diminishes its effectiveness.  Frac sand is pumped into the well with a mixture of water and chemicals during the fracturing operation.  The sand remains in the fracture when the pressure is removed, keeping the fracture propped open and allowing the gas to continue to flow through the well.

Heyl & Patterson designs equipment that can be involved in shale gas projects such as the Marcellus Shale Formation, with Rotary Dryers at both ends of the process.  They can be used by frac sand manufacturers to dry and treat the sand before it is shipped to the job site and pumped into the ground.  After the process, the water/chemical mix and waste fluids that remain are a sludge, and Heyl & Patterson dryers can extract the liquid and turn it back into a solid so it can be properly disposed of.

Oil Sands

Also known as tar sands, this material is a combination of clay, sand, water and heavy black viscous oil called bitumen.  Oil sands can be mined and processed to extract the oil-rich bitumen, which is then refined into oil.  The bitumen in oil sands cannot be pumped from the ground in its natural state, so the deposits are mined using strip mining or open pit techniques, or the oil is extracted through underground heating.

After mining, the oil sand material undergoes a process to separate the bitumen from sand, water, and minerals.  Hot water is added to the sand, and the resulting slurry is piped to an extraction plant where it is agitated.  The combination of hot water and agitation releases bitumen from the oil sand, and causes tiny air bubbles to attach to the bitumen droplets, which float to the top of the separation vessel, where the bitumen can be skimmed off. Further processing removes residual water and solids.  The bitumen is then transported and eventually upgraded into synthetic crude oil.

The Energy Alliance of Greater Pittsburgh is built upon the premise that coordination across these and other sectors is the best way to expand the entire industry for all sectors.  Heyl & Patterson, in turn, is committed to providing high quality custom-engineered solutions that continue to be trusted by these and other industries worldwide.

For more information about Heyl & Patterson, click here to download our corporate brochure:

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