By Traci Bishop and Julie Johansen
The Utah Advanced Materials and Manufacturing Initiative (UAMMI) CrossTalk tours and conference took place in Carbon and Emery counties on Sept. 21 and 22.
This venture began when UAMMI officials and supporting chemical engineering companies toured the San Rafael Energy Research Center on Wednesday, Sept. 21. Dr. Jeremy Pearson, director of the center, explained to the group the establishment of the center, which began about seven years ago with the Emery County Commissioners’ desire to diversify employment and economic development in Emery County.
The building was purchased and refurbished to accomplish these goals. It now houses two completed labs, conference rooms and ample room for future growth. Funding in the amount of about $14 million has been received through Community Impact Board grants as well as state and federal government, with no cost to local tax payers. There are two fully equipped labs, a molten salt reactor lab and a nuclear reactor lab. Alpha Tech is now working at the center and a coal combustion lab is housed in an accompanying building where coal is also being tested.
Dr. Pearson welcomed companies to make inquiries about all the space remaining for future development. They have hopes of retaining local residents and their children in the county through employment and bringing new businesses to the county.
In the afternoon, the tour continued at the Huntington Power Plant. The group was welcomed by Cole Pitchforth, safety director for the plant, as well as Price City Mayor Michael Kourianos, who serves as a shift manager. They explained the operations of a coal fired power plant to the group. Kourianos began by stating that the future of power plants is at risk, which could adversely affect 4,000 families in the Carbon and Emery area, including the entities that support the plants.
He explained how the 14-story high boiler heats the coal to make electricity. Kourianos also demonstrated how they work to get complete combustion out of the coal. He explained the difference between coal fired plants and natural gas plants as well as the efficiency of coal. Kourianos also spoke about stabilizing the grid when other sources of energy differ. He explained that the plant was built where it is because of two things, coal and water, before leading the group on a tour of the plant.
Up next, on Sept. 22, was the conference that was hosted at USU Eastern’s Jennifer Leavitt Student Center. This conference was hosted from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and began with a welcome from Greg Dart, USU Eastern Associate Vice President.
The CrossTalk conference focused on leveraging Utah’s material resources for advanced manufacturing. This was a chance for businesses, community members and more to attend and learn about rare earth elements, critical minerals and other minerals that are used for advance manufacturing. The conference included breakfast and lunch, networking, keynote speakers and more.
It was explained that UAMMI is a public-private partnership nonprofit based in Utah, with the vision to elevate advanced materials and advanced manufacturing companies in Utah. UAMMI is a no-fee membership organization and is funded by federal grants to help small and large businesses grow industry in the state.