Duke - The Fuqua School of Business

Feature Story

What Will You Change: Cleaner Coal in China

Will Latta, Dave Piejak, & Andy Welch, all from the Weekend Executive MBA Class of 2002, found a company to reduce pollution.

Dave Piejak, Andy Welch, and Will Latta

Classmates Dave Piejak, Andy Welch, and Will Latta (from left to right) on one of their annual ski trips; they decided to found their engineering company during a similar trip to Vancouver.

December 27, 2010

This article was originally published in the Team Fuqua alumni magazine.

Will Latta (Weekend Executive MBA ’02) moved to China in 2005 to work in the power plant industry. While living there, he noticed that the beauty of the country was being spoiled by air pollution that would engulf many Chinese cities.

As his knowledge and interest in the country grew, he learned that China was beginning to seriously address environmental concerns in a five-year plan focused on the nation’s emerging challenges (China’s 12th Five-Year Plan starts in 2011).

Latta says he was drawn to the dynamic, sweeping changes that were rapidly transforming China, and he decided that he wanted to be involved directly. He started thinking about a new business opportunity to create greater efficiency, and by default less pollution, within the coal industry.

Latta along with Dave Piejak and Andy Welch, all classmates from the Weekend Executive MBA Class of 2002, convened for their annual ski trip in Vancouver, B.C., in the winter of 2007. Latta brought up an idea for a business opportunity, and asked for backing from his brother, Piejak, and Welch.

They decided to give him the seed money to begin, and in the summer of 2007, LP Amina was born. Now a multinational engineering company, LP Amina is based in Beijing, China, and utilizes environmental technology to create solutions to support a sustainable coal industry.

With the initial investment and additional venture capital in 2008, LP Amina has grown to more than 100 employees with a network of more than 2,000 technicians working around the globe. Latta is the company’s Chairman and CEO, and Piejak recently joined the company full time as General Manager of U.S. Operations, while Welch acts as a board member.

“We’re the clean dirty guys,” Latta says. “Coal’s going to be around for some time, and there are opportunities for improvement. We’re expanding into a wider area to look at getting coal-based chemicals and power generation to a near zero emissions footprint.”

LP Amina works with individual power plants to improve efficiency and reduce their emissions. Latta and Piejak have seen a 70 percent reduction in emissions on completed projects.

Latta notes that LP Amina has positioned itself as a global innovator in advanced coal technology, accomplished partly through new collaborations. The company recently partnered with Bayer Technology Services on a coal-to-chemicals project that is expected to deliver 70 percent efficiency gains and a 90 percent reduction in emissions. In addition, in September, LP Amina was part of a consortium led by West Virginia University that won a $25 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy under the U.S.-China Clean Energy Research Center. The funding will go toward developing the next generation of clean coal technology.

“As a well-established pioneer in the environmental engineering industry in China, LP Amina hopes to be out in front assisting China on its journey toward creating a sustainable future as the government steps up with tighter  regulations,” says Piejak.