Published December 2009
Rising world oil prices have renewed interest in producing fuel from unconventional sources such as coal, oil shale, and biomass. Large coal reserves and viable technology to produce liquid fuels from coal give promise to the rebirth of a U.S. domestic coal industry. In the long term it makes sense to rigorously pursue the commercial development of coal to liquids (CTL) technologies from the perspective that it may be the only pathway that can deal with the tyranny of large numbers required to close the gap between supply and demand for transportation fuels.
The United States has many opportunities including improving energy efficiencies that alone however will not be sufficient. Fiscal and regulatory actions will also be needed to promote greater economic and energy security. CTL must be an important part of the solution portfolio as the nation needs to respond to the realities of world energy markets, including global energy demand and the need to protect the environment. A commercially competitive CTL industry in a high energy price environment could be producing as much as 3 million barrels per day of high quality liquid fuels by 2030. This level of fuels production would provide about 15% of the current oil demand in the U.S. and would provide the means required to break the current national addiction to oil.
In this report we examine the technologies involved to produce fuels from coal by two of the most promising routes, including high temperature Fischer-Tropsch (F-T) and methanol to gasoline (MTG). The first F-T route produces a slate of transportation fuels including gasoline, jet fuel, diesel, and fuel oil. The second route produces a 90+% yield of gasoline from methanol, which can be produced either from coal or natural gas.
Finally, this report provides a combination of simulated and conceptual designs and economic analysis for the production of F-T liquids using high temperature synthesis technology. The bases for this analysis include the construction of both demonstration and refinery scale plants that are free-standing.