|WVU Affirms Coal Liquefaction Viability for US Congress|
|Thursday - July 12, 2012|
AMERICAN ENERGY INITIATIVE; COMMITTEE: HOUSE ENERGY AND COMMERCE; SUBCOMMITTEE: ENERGY AND POWER - Power Engineering
The day before yesterday, Tuesday, July 10, a key committee of the United States Congress got to hear, straight from what we could and should see as a sacred font of primordial Coal Country knowledge, West Virginia University, the truth about converting our abundant domestic Coal into liquid hydrocarbons, that is, into substitutes for the products derived from natural petroleum which we now impoverish our nation and debase our core values to import from the often inimical alien nations of OPEC:
"(The) industrial deployment of technologies like coal gasification and Fischer-Tropsch, or F-T, processes can produce super clean synthetic gasoline, diesel, and jet fuels that are almost sulfur free, have almost no carcinogenic compounds compared to petroleum, produce fewer particulate emissions, and outperform petroleum fuels."
The above statement was part of the July 10, 2012, testimony delivered to the United States House of Representatives' Energy and Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Energy and Power:
U.S. House of Representatives: Committee on Energy and Commerce, Republicans : Subcommittees
"Subcommittee on Energy and Power; Jurisdiction: National energy policy generally; Fossil energy, renewable energy resources and synthetic fuels, energy conservation, energy information; Energy regulation and utilization; Utility issues and regulation of nuclear facilities; Interstate energy compacts; Nuclear energy; The Clean Air Act and air emission; and, All laws, programs, and government activities affecting such matters."
Members of that Subcommittee include notables such as Ed Whitfield (KY); David McKinley (WV); and, Michael F. Doyle (PA).
And, the testimony was provided to them as an official statement by the venerable Richard A. Bajura; Director, National Research Center for Coal and Energy; West Virginia University:
About the NRCCE - National Research Center for Coal and Energy;
"The National Research Center for Coal and Energy advances ideas about energy and the environment through the conduct of research, technology transfer, and information dissemination activities. We are: a research center and an information clearinghouse located at one of our nation's leading research institutions serving the citizens of its home state and of the nation - West Virginia University."
More can be learned from the USDOE's National Energy Technology Laboratory:
NETL Regional University Alliance (NETL-RUA);
"Richard Bajura has spent the past 21 years facilitating research programs in energy at West Virginia University. During this time, he developed and managed eight major interdisciplinary, inter–institutional research programs addressing a wide range of energy applications from resource extraction to alternative fuels."
The following, more complete excerpts from Director Bajura's testimony, with comment appended, are as excerpted from the initial link in this dispatch. Should that link not prove durable, the testimony is available via other inter net sources, as well, as a quick web search using the above particulars should reveal, God forbid one of our Coal Country journalists should remember how to use the telephone and get on the line to West Virginia University or the office of West Virginia Congressman David McKinley:
"Statement of Richard A. Bajura Director, National Research Center for Coal and Energy West Virginia University
Committee on House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power
July 10, 2012
'Chairman Whitfield and Members of the Subcommittee:
Mr. Chairman, I thank you and members of your subcommittee for the opportunity to offer testimony on the topic of coal-to- liquids, commonly abbreviated as CTL.
Background: In my role as director of a university-wide energy and environmental center, I have enjoyed an opportunity to work with a research team of five universities called the Consortium for Fossil Fuel Science led by the University of Kentucky. Our consortium focused on finding ways to produce liquid fuels and chemicals from coal and other feedstocks such as biomass and recyclables such as plastics and rubber. I welcomed this opportunity to work with the University of Kentucky's Dr. Jerry Huffman. Since very early in my 30-year career as a research administrator, it seemed to me that we could do more with our abundant coal resource than only making electricity. Our consortium's research focused on applied technology development. My personal involvements have also been in the area of advocating for polygeneration. Polygeneration is a technology that includes a combination of coal-based electricity generation and liquid fuels production to satisfy our nation's need for power and petroleum.
(As one example of the above, see our report of:
Eastman Coal to Methanol and Electric Power | Research & Development; concerning:
"US Patent Application 20060096298 - Method for Satisfying Variable Power Demand; 2006; Assignee: Eastman Chemical Company, TN; Abstract: A process for satisfying variable power demand and a method for maximizing the monetary value of a synthesis gas stream are disclosed. One or more synthesis gas streams are produced by gasification of carbonaceous materials and passed to a power producing zone to produce electrical power during a period of peak power demand or to a chemical producing zone to produce chemicals such as, for example, methanol, during a period of off-peak power demand".)
We know that industrial deployment of technologies like coal gasification and Fischer-Tropsch, or F-T, processes can produce super clean synthetic gasoline, diesel, and jet fuels that are almost sulfur free, have almost no carcinogenic compounds compared to petroleum, produce fewer particulate emissions, and outperform petroleum fuels. The gasification process results in a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen gases, which are the simple chemical compounds that serve as building blocks for multiple plastics and polymers used in products ranging from household goods to industrial-grade materials. Through F-T we not only can make liquid fuels, but also chemicals and other useful products such as fertilizer or ammonia, and even some commonly used over-the-counter medicines such as aspirin.
Gasification and Fischer-Tropsch are well known technologies that can be cost-competitive with conventional petroleum fuels production when the price of oil is high. Our challenge is to make coal-derived products competitive with the price of oil in present and future markets. A more recent challenge is to make these products with reduced CO2 emissions.
We can make coal-to-liquids with reduced carbon emissions through carbon storage - capturing the CO2 generated in making the fuels or chemicals and storing it in geologic formations. Or, we can reduce CO2 emissions by adding biomass to the feedstock mix, which is a way of naturally reusing atmospheric CO2 since biofuels are produced from the existing inventory of CO2 in the atmosphere rather than by adding additional carbon from mined coal or other fossil fuels. The F-T process inherently requires CO2 extraction to produce the fuels, so the cost to capture the CO2 is incorporated into the process and is very low, perhaps only 15 cents per gallon.
(We must of course interrupt here, since the venerable Bajura, no doubt in consideration of his politically sensitive audience, felt obliged to genuflect in the direction of "carbon storage - capturing the CO2 generated in making the fuels or chemicals and storing it in geologic formations", a concept which, as we've documented in previous reports, one of Bajura's knowledgeable, but perhaps less politically-cultured, academic colleagues at Penn State University, Craig Grimes, has publicly labeled "ridiculous". We, here, call it that, as well, since, even though Dr. Bajura did note the potential of "adding biomass to the feedstock mix, which is a way of naturally reusing atmospheric CO2", as seen, for one example, in our report of:
West Virginia Coal Association | Coal + Biomass to Liquids, with Algae CO2 Recycling | Research & Development; concerning:
"United States Patent Application 20120144887 - Integrated Coal to Liquids Process and System with CO2 Mitigation Using Algal Biomass; 2012; Assignee: Accelergy Corporation, Houston; Abstract: An ICBTL (Integrated Coal and Biomass To Liquids) system having a low GHG footprint for converting coal or coal and biomass to liquid fuels in which a carbon-based feed is converted to liquids by direct liquefaction and optionally by indirect liquefaction and the liquids are upgraded to produce premium fuels. CO2 produced by the process is used to produce algal biomass and photosynthetic microorganisms in a photobioreactor";
we must note, that, as seen for just one recent example in:
US Navy Awarded September, 2011, CO2 Recycling Patent | Research & Development; concerning:
"United States Patent 8,017,658 - Synthesis of Hydrocarbons via Catalytic Reduction of CO2; 2011; Assignee: The United States of America as represented by the Secretary of the Navy; Abstract: A method of: introducing hydrogen and a feed gas containing at least 50 % carbon dioxide into a reactor containing a Fischer-Tropsch catalyst; and heating the hydrogen and carbon dioxide to a temperature of at least about 190 C. to produce hydrocarbons in the reactor. An apparatus having: a reaction vessel for containing a Fischer-Tropsch catalyst, capable of heating gases to at least about 190 C.; a hydrogen delivery system feeding into the reaction vessel; a carbon dioxide delivery system for delivering a feed gas containing at least 50 % carbon dioxide feeding into the reaction vessel; and a trap for collecting hydrocarbons generated in the reaction vessel";
some other modestly-accomplished organizations have clearly demonstrated that, instead, we can convert Carbon Dioxide, as well as Coal, rather directly into liquid hydrocarbon fuels; an option which just seems to us, well ... sensible. However, the esteemed Dr. Bajura does insist on attempting to make the case for geologic storage of CO2, as will be seen in further excerpts. We continue to insist that it is an unwarranted, and unnecessary, subsidy of Big Oil, as well as a waste of a potentially-valuable resource, i.e., Carbon Dioxide.)
Opportunities for CTL Technologies: The International Energy Agency (IEA) and the Energy Information Agency (EIA) and similar organizations predict petroleum prices to be in excess of $100 per barrel, and as much as $200 per barrel in twenty years, depending on the economies of developing nations such as China. China is aggressively pursuing its own CTL strategies out of necessity because they have insufficient petroleum reserves.
(And, "China is aggressively pursuing its own CTL strategies" quite successfully, as seen, for example, in:
China Makes "Huge Profits" from Coal Liquefaction | Research & Development; concerning: "China Coal Producer Reaps Huge Profits From CTL Project; Shenhua Group, China's largest coal producer, has made huge profits from its pilot coal-to-liquid (CTL) project in north China in the first three months of this year, a company executive said".)
We believe that we can produce super clean fuels and chemicals in the U.S. at costs of $94 per barrel for CTL with carbon storage and $104 per barrel with carbon storage and 15% biomass in the feed. These estimates are based on using today's technology; next-generation technologies would be even more cost competitive. Fuels produced with combinations of coal and biomass feedstocks would emit 25% less CO2 than is emitted by today's petroleum fuel-based system over its life-cycle.
I want to share with you the results of a study conducted by the National Coal Council that were presented to Secretary of Energy Steven Chu last month.
I served as the Chair of the Study Group that developed the report. The U.S. has a four million barrel per day CO2 / EOR potential to produce stranded oil using tertiary recovery processes like CO2 injection. Suppose our nation were to undertake a plan to produce 2.5 million barrels per day of F-T fuels from coal and biomass. If we used the CO2 from these CTL plants plus the CO2 from one hundred gigawatts of advanced coal- based electricity plants with carbon capture capability, we could liberate 4 million barrels per day of stranded petroleum through EOR. Overall, we would produce 6.5 million barrels of liquid fuels per day. Considering our nation's goal of importing no more than 7.4 million barrels of petroleum per day by 2035, we would reduce our imports to only one million barrels per day. Incidentally, 61% of our trade deficit in 2011 was due to imported oil, so you can see what a large impact this plan could have on our trade deficit.
(As in our earlier comments, the learned Dr. Bajura does continue to tout "EOR", enhanced oil recovery, with reclaimed Carbon Dioxide. And, we will say this: Carbon Dioxide, as per the above-cited US Navy technology of "United States Patent 8,017,658 - Synthesis of Hydrocarbons via Catalytic Reduction of CO2", is a valuable raw material resource; and, if Big Oil wants any of it from us for "EOR", then he should darned-well have to pay us a good price for any that we might co-produce at a Coal liquefaction facility and then ship, at his cost, to him. - JtM)
If we embark on this goal, or Aspirational Case as described by the National Coal Council, by 2030 we would see nearly $200 billion in industry sales and $60 billion in federal, state, and local government taxes annually, and be employing about one million people in new jobs in coal mining, fuels production, oil production, and the associated spin-off industries. This Aspirational Case "Company" would rank fifth on the Fortune 500. The jobs would be high paying, and we would need to train and expand our workforce. Oil prices would be stabilized, and by 2035 we would produce what would be 6% of the world's oil supply of 110 million barrels per day here in the U.S. instead of competing for it in a demanding global marketplace.
A CTL industry also would allow the U.S.' transportation sector to be more resilient to climate impacts as well. CTL plants could be located in many regions of the country. A powerful hurricane hitting the Gulf Coast right now could devastate our refinery capacity whereas widely distributed CTL plants would give us a measure of security from such natural catastrophic events.
Other Considerations: In my testimony today, I have focused on the benefits of employing CTL technology rather than the technical details of how it works. While gasification and F-T processes are known technologies, much new research remains to be done in improving these processes to stay ahead of the oil price curve.
(As in our report of:
West Virginia Coal Association | WVU and China Coal to $24 per Barrel Oil | Research & Development; concerning:
"Coal to Clean Fuel; The Shenua Investment in Direct Coal Liquefaction; Jerald J. Fletcher, Director and Professor, (and) Qingyun Sun, Research Assistant Professor; Natural Resource Analysis Center; West Virginia University; 3rd US-China Clean Energy Workshop; Morgantown, WV; 2004; Shenhua Coal Liquefaction Plan; Direct Coal Liquefaction plant in Inner Mongolia; Construction of 1st train (production line) initiated in 2002; Oil equivalent products of 845,300 Mt/y by 2007; Estimated production cost $24/bbl";
we're right there, right now, although the Shenua facility is a direct, DCL, Coal liquefaction operation, not one of the, perhaps more versatile, "gasification and F-T processes" representative of indirect Coal liquefaction.
One thing to keep in mind, however, is the "hidden cost" of imported petroleum, as we've discussed, again for just one example, in:
West Virginia Coal Association | CTL vs. Real Oil Cost | Research & Development; concerning: "The Real Cost of Oil: How much are we paying for a gallon of gas? National Defense Council";
wherein it's explained, that, due the costs of lost potential US domestic wages and taxes, and of policing overseas sources of petroleum and shipping lanes, the real price, via those hidden costs, of a gallon of gasoline in the United States is actually over $5.00 per gallon.)
Gasification and F-T plants must be built at large scale to operate economically. Large scale means high capital costs for such plants. If we don't reduce risk and uncertainty ... bankers will not provide the financing. The increased taxes earned from this enhanced oil industry would repay federal investments in launching the Aspirational program.
Recommendations: Analysts have concluded that both the U.S. and the global community will depend on petroleum and the internal combustion engine well into the future. The United States should use cost effective technologies to produce our needed liquid fuels domestically. Development of a U.S. CTL industry coupled with power generation ... is a business model that has the added benefits of improving the environment and job creation.
Federal support is needed to reduce the financial risks of deploying these integrated technologies. Investments in developmental research would bring about both evolutionary and revolutionary changes in technology that would reduce costs.
Incentive programs to help buy down the technology deployment risks are needed to encourage first-of-a-kind plants. We need to be attentive to the global marketplace where other countries such as China are making large investments in CTL production. We will be buying our technology from overseas if the U.S. falls behind in advanced research or demonstration in advanced coal technologies.
(These would not have to be "first-of-a-kind plants". As we've documented in many reports, such as:
West Virginia Coal Association | South Africa Improves Coal to Gasoline Conversion Efficiencies | Research & Development; concerning, primarily:
"United States Patent 4,318,797 - Process for Converting Coal into Liquid Products; 1982; Assignee: Sasol One Proprietary, Sasolburg (South Africa); Abstract: The invention provides a process and an apparatus for hydrogenative liquefaction of coal to produce high yields of gasoline fraction and optional yields of diesel and residue fraction, all of superior quality";
which contains supplemental references documenting that Sasol, in South Africa, first began converting Coal into liquid hydrocarbon fuels on an industrial basis in the 1950's, there is no such thing as a "first-of-a-kind" plant that converts Coal into perfectly-acceptable substitutes for any and all sorts of liquid hydrocarbon fuels traditionally made from petroleum.)
Closing Comments: I believe that deploying a national CTL program would help meet the goals of H. R. 2036, which four of the members of this Subcommittee have co-sponsored. A similar bill, S.937, has been introduced in the Senate. The goals of these bills are to decrease risks to national security, lower domestic energy prices, reduce trade deficits, and create jobs in the U.S. CTL will help us attain these goals."
With regards to our concluding excerpted statement, see:
Bill Text - 112th Congress (2011-2012) - THOMAS (Library of Congress); "H.R. 2036 - American Alternative Fuels Act of 2011; 112th Congress, 1st Session; To repeal certain barriers to domestic fuel production, and for other purposes"; and:
Bill Text - 112th Congress (2011-2012) - THOMAS (Library of Congress); "S.937 - American Alternative Fuels Act of 2011; 112th Congress, 1st Session; To repeal certain barriers to domestic fuel production, and for other purposes".
And our own, personal, concluding statement is this:
Coal Country news reporters, most especially those of you living and working in West Virginia, get off your dead cans.
It is far, far past time your readers learned the truth:
We can, efficiently and economically, in an environmentally-beneficial way, convert our abundant Coal into anything we now mortgage our children's and grandchildren's future to OPEC for the supply of.
As herein, our elected representatives in the United States Congress now, as taught them by a qualified and impeccable authority, know that to be true.
They need to be told, now, that We The People, as well, know that to be true.
And, they need to be instructed on how we wish them, as our representatives, to proceed.
And, in truth, we, personally, here, no longer know what those instructions might be.
Based on our long, multiple-year experience openly reporting the truth of the matter, i.e., that both Coal and Carbon Dioxide, both directly and indirectly, can be efficiently converted into a full range of liquid and gaseous hydrocarbon fuels, with virtually none of that information being repeated or reported in the public Coal Country press, we have, we confess, no idea what the true interests of the Coal Country public news media might be, or, where their true loyalties might lie.
And, thus, we have no idea what, if anything, the Coal Country public news media will report to the Coal Country public citizens about the truth of the matter, and, what, subsequently, the Coal Country public will instruct their elected representatives to do.
It is now far, far past time we, all of us, found out.