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PITT Chronicle: Gifts & Grants: From Coal to Clean Fuel - An Emerging Reality

By Carrie Peterson
"Whether it’s a car powered by garbage in the film Back to the Future (Universal Studios, 1985) or the solar-powered and electric “hybrids” occasionally seen on urban streets, Americans have been working for decades to find a practical, clean alternative to gasoline-powered automobiles. Now, with the University of Pittsburgh’s research of C1 chemistry—the conversion of single, carbon-bearing molecules (derived from coal and natural gas) into more valuable products like clean-burning transportation fuels—a solution to some of America’s fuel worries may be found in our own backyard.

The Department of Energy (DOE) has awarded a three-year, $5.7 million research contract to the Consortium for Fossil Fuel Science (CFFS), a group of researchers at five universities: Pitt, the University of Kentucky, West Virginia University, the University of Utah, and Auburn University. Each CFFS-member school will study a different aspect of C1 chemistry.

The University of Pittsburgh received $257,000 to study and improve the Fischer-Tropsch process, which heats coal and turns it into a cleaner, more efficient fuel.

“To gasify coal into synthesis gas, a mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide, is a known technology,” said Irving Wender, a Pitt Distinguished University Research Professor of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering and one of the researchers working on C1 chemistry. “The researchers at Pitt want to gain a better understanding of the pathways involved in converting synthesis gas to liquid fuels.” "


We suppose you could attempt contacting Ms. Peterson, or Dr. Wender. However, this article was published in April, 2003.

In my (Joe's) career as a geo-technical engineer/ground control specialist, I've been in some deep, deep mines - but, especially given our current "oil crisis", I've never seen coal buried as deep as it seems to be when it comes to the issue of coal conversion. What, do you speculate, could be the reason CTL science hasn't been front page material - especially in our primary coal-producing states - i.e., WV?

Note, especially, the article's full title: "From Coal to Clean Fuel - ....Reality"

Well, the full title includes the word "Emerging". But, that was in 2003. The chick should have it's head out of the shell by now, don't you think? That, especially since it started really hatching, in Germany, a little over 60 years ago.

The Germans were doing it for their war effort, to fuel their military machines. We've told you about our own, US Air Force's efforts in that regard. The Army's into it, as well:

"The U.S. Army is interested in the clean-coal fuel because it can be adjusted for use in different vehicles. About 50 percent of the weight the Army carries overseas is fuel, because a different fuel is needed for tanks, planes, and trucks,” said Wender. “Since the new fuel burns more efficiently, the Army would need to transport less of it.”

What they're saying is that the Army's into this, as well as the Air Force, and, as we earlier suggested, coal-derived, Fischer-Tropsch fuel is better than petroleum-based diesel or gasoline.

The University of Pittsburgh, Mike. We ain't gonna let the Panthers beat our Mounties again, are we?