WV Coal Member Meeting 2024 1240x200 1 1

Ceramic Membrane Technology for Lower Cost Conversion of Natural Gas



               The ITM Syngas Team, led by Air Products and including Chevron, Ceramatec, and other partners, in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy, is developing Ion Transport Membrane (ITM) technology for the production of synthesis gas.  ITM ceramic membranes are fabricated from non-porous, multi-component metallic oxides and operate at high temperatures (typically over 700°C) with exceptionally high oxygen flux and selectivity.  A conceptualization of the ITM Syngas technology is shown in Figure 1.  Oxygen from low-pressure air permeates, as oxygen ions, through the ceramic membrane and is consumed through chemical reactions, thus creating a chemical driving force that pulls oxygen ions across the membrane at high rates. The oxygen reacts with natural gas in a partial oxidation process to produce a hydrogen and carbon monoxide mixture (synthesis gas).

Figure 1.  Conceptual ITM Syngas process showing multiple synthesis gas applications


               The ITM Syngas process is a breakthrough technology that combines air separation and high-temperature synthesis gas generation processes into a single ceramic membrane reactor, with significant savings in the cost of synthesis gas production.  Because synthesis gas is a feedstock for a range of different processes, ITM Syngas represents a technology platform that has numerous applications, such as Gas-to-Liquids; hydrogen; ultra-clean fuels, including liquid transportation fuels; and chemicals such as methanol (Figure 1).

CO2: High Density Vertical Bioreactor - HDVB

An excerpt:
"The algae derived fuel will be an energy efficient replacement for fossil fuels and can be used in any diesel powered vehicle or machinery. In addition, 90% by weight of the algae is captured carbon dioxide, which is "sequestered" by this process and so contributes significantly to the reduction of greenhouse gases."
We'll be sending you several similar emails referencing the use of algae to, first, capture CO2 emissions, and, second, to provide additional feedstock to the CO2-emitting process itself, whether that be a coal-fired generating plant or a coal-to-liquid factory.
You will discover, as we go along, that the CO2-capturing potential of such algal bio-reactors has been calculated, and that bio-engineering has been undertaken to improve the carbon capture and liquid fuel potential of the microbes.
We had, some time ago, referred you to several companies active in the field, and alerted you to some test flights of airplanes that utilized algal jet fuel, much as we related to you the flight of WV's US Senator Randolph in a coal-powered airplane - more than 50 years ago.

The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia - Byrd Says Coal Better Prospect than Oil in Alaska

"Byrd said he remains in close touch with Sen. Jay Rockefeller, Rep. Nick Rahall and Gov. Joe Manchin on proposed coal conversion facilities that employ modern technology to produce transportation fuels."
The technology is real, Mike. And, if appropriate design of coal conversion facilities is insisted upon, those same facilities can ultimately convert biomass, cellulose primarily, into fuel, and the more complex, "denser", organic compounds of coal into more valuable raw materials for a variety of manufacturing  processes.
And, one big reason WV coal is better is that it's ease of access and proximity to markets offsets - dramatically, in all likelihood - the capital costs of conversion to liquids relative to the exploration, exploitation and transportation of Alaskan petroleum.
Those factors need to be included in the larger equation.

Conversion of Coal to High Octane Gasoline - Patent 3972958


The assignee is Mobil Oil - of Exxon-Mobil and their Methanol-to-Gasoline process.
An excerpt:

"The product gasoline is an excellent lead-free motor fuel. In fact, it has such high quality that it can be blended with substantial volumes of lower octane materials such as straight run naphtha to increase its volume while still maintaining excellent quality."

Now, gosh, if coal-derived gasoline is of such high quality that it can be diluted with lower-cost filler, that ought to help with the costs, one would think. Kind of like cutting our pure hillbilly 'shine with branch water - by way of example.


Governor's Hot Topics - mt.gov - Montana's Official State Website


We excerpted the following from Montana Governor Schweitzer's web site:

"Where is synthetic fuel made today?

South Africa is the leading producer. For decades, it has operated plants that produce an estimated 300,000 barrels of gasoline and diesel a day from coal. A number of other countries, including Qatar, Malaysia and China, are investing in either coal gasification or synfuel production. Increased global demand for oil and other energy has driven up prices and made synfuel production an economically viable alternative.

How would the military benefit from synfuel?

The Office of the Secretary of Defense recently issued a Clean Fuels Initiative proposal to run all battlefield engines on a synthetic fuel. Though its fulfillment may be many years away, this strategy would enable the military to 1) avoid buying oil from unstable regimes that are known sponsors of terror, 2) mitigate supply chain vulnerabilities to events like Gulf Coast hurricanes, 3) meet clean air requirements in European countries where we have airbases, and 4) simplify the fueling of battlefield equipment that presently run on multiple fuels.

Why haven't synfuels been pursued in America before?

They have. In fact, the U.S. government was exploring synfuel as early as 1925. In the 1940s, a Synthetic Liquid Fuels Act passed by Congress appropriated over $80 million for research and production. By the 1950s, America was producing thousands of gallons of synthetic gasoline a day at a test plant in Missouri. But the discovery of cheap oil, combined with a lobbying effort by the oil industry, caused the government to abandon its synfuel research. During the oil crisis in the late 1970s, the federal government briefly pursued synfuel production, but abandoned the idea when the price of oil receded.

Are there other applications of this technology?

In addition to making liquid fuels, coal gasification can be used to generate electricity with virtually no emissions. Looking to the future, it can be used to produce hydrogen for use in fuel cells. Gasification also can be used for industrial products such as naphtha, chemicals, waxes for cosmetics, fertilizers, and carbon dioxide for enhanced oil recovery.

Is synthetic fuel cost effective?

Yes. The cost of making a barrel of synthetic fuel is estimated to be around $55, including the sizeable infrastructure investments and the labor force necessary to operate the plant. At the current and projected price of oil, production should be a cost effective enterprise. Key economic incentives in the recently enacted federal Energy Bill, such as 80% loan guarantees for certain coal liquefaction projects, reduce the economic uncertainty of bringing this technology up to commercial scale.

How long will it take for America to produce enough synfuel to make a difference?

There are already a number of small plants being designed around America, but a large-scale national effort must involve the federal government and will take a number of years. Given South Africa's success in this field, we can assume that if the federal government became meaningfully invested in this concept, America could have a strong synfuel industry within the next decade."


We some time ago noted the MT governor's address on coal-derived synfuel/coal conversion at a Pittsburgh, PA, mining conference.

You, or someone, should give him a call. Montana's lignite just ain't as clean or BTU/carbon-dense as WV bituminous. It's easier to get at, and cheaper to mine, but it's also remote and has to be transported to places where people can actually use it. WV's a lot closer to NYC, Philly, DC, etc.

Why not West Virginia?

Called Sasol, YET?