Valley City State University is moving ahead with its plans for an “activated carbon” project.
VCSU Vice President for business affairs Wesley Wintch said this will be a project in collaboration with the Energy and Environmental Research Center at UND. Wintch said “activated carbon” is a carbon char that has been “activated” with steam, and it is used to take impurities and pollutants out of water or air.
"Have you ever seen those Brita water filters with the black, charcoaly things inside?" Wintch said. "That is activated carbon."
Those activated carbons will come from a steam heat distribution system on campus, which is fueled by lignite coal. The heating system exists – and the new plant will be built right next to it.
"The lignite would go through a process, where we would burn the gases off of that coal," Wintch said. "Those gases are volatile. And we can capture the impurities out of that."
Wintch said the heat energy from that would be used to make steam.
"That steam can be used to heat the campus," Wintch said. "That would give the University savings in heating costs."
The “char” would then be sold in the marketplace.
VCSU is looking to issue $22.5 million in revenue bonds for the project. The bonds would be paid off though the sales of the activated carbon.
"One of the nice things is, there's nobody doing it in the Upper Midwest," Wintch said. "We would have a nice competitive advantage of location."
Wintch said it will also give the University some opportunities for research. He said he’d like to see ground broken on the project next summer – and it will be an 18-month buildout.