Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Turning Coal to Liquid Fuel in Montana

Montana's governor is trying to sell a coal to fuel idea.

Coal-to-fuel conversion, which was practiced out of necessity by pariah nations like Nazi Germany and South Africa under apartheid, has been around for more than 80 years. It is called the Fischer-Tropsch process. What is new is the technology that removes and stores the pollutants during and after the making of synthetic fuel; add to that high oil prices, which have suddenly made this form of energy alchemy feasible. The coal could be converted into gasoline or diesel, which would run cars, or into other types of fuel.

With coal reserves of about 120 billion tons, Montana has one-third of the nation's total and a tenth of the global amount.

By some estimates, the United States has enough coal to take care of its energy needs for 800 years. The new, cleaner technology stores the pollutants in the ground or processes them for other uses.

It would cost upward of $7 billion to build a plant that could turn out 150,000 barrels of synthetic fuel a day, for about $35 a barrel.
Not quite clear what pollutants they are talking about and how exactly it handles them. But if they can do this in an environmentally sound way and create a barrel of synthetic fuel at $35 a barrel this is a promising idea. Up in Canada they will be processing their sand oil tar to create fuel, why we will be processing our coal to do the same.

via New York Times

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