Irish company turning coal waste into fuel receives investment

A Belfast, Ireland-based company which aims to convert coal waste into fuel has secured a £2 million (€2.19 million) investment to set up a pilot plant.

The company, Silform, has developed a patented process to transform quality coal waste into special pellets which can be used in an industrial setting. A pilot plant is being built in County Tyrone to carry out further tests on the pellets.

The £2 million (€2.19 million) investment was made by the Bank of Ireland Kernel Capital Growth Fund (NI) and private investors. It is hoped the plant will be operational by November 2019.

Silform's chief executive, Ken Flockhart, has said that coal mining creates billions of tonnes of waste annually. His company will source coal waste from countries including Germany, Poland, Australia and South Africa. In a statement published by Irish News, Flockhart said: "This waste is just lying around and some of it is actually really good material. We can pick this up, clean it up and use it. One of the key things we do is clean up waste."

Flockhart added that Silform's process could be used in the interim while industries shift to greener energy sources. He added: "We characterise our process as energy changeover. We've created a process so that we can clean up the mess that's been made. As the mines are closed down, we'll be able to assist in the changeover."

Silform's process is said to be 'low energy', according to Flockhart, who added that the pellets are weatherproof and can be stacked in the same way as coal.

The company is also developing other technologies utilising waste coal, including BioCoal, which sees coal waste mixed with waste sawdust. This is said to create lower carbon emissions but it has a higher burn rate than wood pellets.

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