Trans Tech Conference comes to Morgantown


The term “TransTech” has been floating around for about five years, according to Carl Irwin, creator of the TransTech Energy Program at the National Research Center for Coal and Energy.

It refers to technologies that try to transition the nation’s energy portfolio into something that’s more economically sustainable, while at the same time, being competitive and using lower amounts of carbon. Carl Irwin says the public plays an important part in recognizing transitional technologies.

“The average consumer sees the price of fuel, sees what the gas bill is at the home. They are going to be out looking for, what are the new technologies, are there ways that biomass can reduce the pollution of a coal-fired power plant. I’m hoping these become more prevalent in the general public for sure,” Irwin said.

Ideas presented by the entrepreneurs include one company who wants to distribute nano-engineered “Frac balls” that are designed to keep natural gas wells from getting clogged. Another wants to develop better technologies for piping at natural gas pumping stations. Irwin says the sky is the limit when trying to develop these new ideas.

“This is the future of the state, it’s new jobs, continuing to use our research, to use our innovative people, and create new businesses and new jobs. I think that’s very important for all of us,” said Irwin.

One person who came looking for inspiration is Abigail Morrisey. She’s a WVU student that’s involved with a special academic program at the university known as “EQuad.” This program brings together elements of energy, the environment, entrepreneurship, and economics. Morrisey says she wants to work in the farm and agricultural industry, and this event got her thinking about new ideas.

“Agriculture has always been a big part of my life, so I’ve always wanted to do something with that,” she said.

“Having the EQuad Major, and that opportunity, here at the university, has really broadened everything I can do.”

While natural gas and shale technologies were hot topics at the conference, biomass technologies were also discussed. Researchers at the National Research Center for Coal and Energy have been looking at how biomass can help reduce carbon emissions in burning coal, amongst other methods.