Published April 1976
Fischer-Tropsch and related syntheses convert carbon monoxide and hydrogen into hydrocarbons and oxygenated products. Fischer-Tropsch syntheses were used in Germany during the 1930s and 1940s to produce hydrocarbon fuels from coal-derived synthesis gas. Although some of these plants continued operating into the 1950s, they could not compete economically against cheap and abundant crude oil supplied from the Middle East, and were shut down. The recent steep increase in crude oil prices, however, has prompted many companies and government agencies to reexamine the economic feasibility of Fischer-Tropsch syntheses operated on coal-derived synthesis gas. Whereas the primary interest is in manufacturing hydrocarbons for fuel use, the potential of Fischer-Tropsch syntheses for manufacturing various petrochemicals also is being investigated.
This study reviews the technology and presents the economics of producing ethylene, polyethylene, and normal alcohols by Fischer-Tropsch processes. The economics of producing fuels, together with numerous by-product chemicals, from lignite-derived synthesis gas also is presented.
The coal used as the source of the carbon monoxide and hydrogen gases is assumed to be mined at a midwestern U.S. location. The capital and production cost estimates are based on the assumption that the plant is located next to the coal mine.