We remind you of a report we made somewhat more than a year ago, in October of 2010, now accessible on the West Virginia Coal Association's web site via the link:

ExxonMobil "Clean Gasoline from Coal" | Research & Development; and, wherein ExxonMobil, in a glossy marketing brochure accessible via a link enclosed in that dispatch, explain their "MTG"(r) technology, wherein Methanol is converted into Gasoline; and, wherein they posit the Methanol to be made from Coal.

One brief excerpt from that brochure reads:

"Methanol to Gasoline (MTG): Production of Clean Gasoline from Coal; To meet the need to increase (liquid fuel) supply while protecting the environment, continued technology advances will be needed. One such consideration is the conversion of coal into high quality, clean-burning transportation fuel."

It seems odd to us that no one in United States Coal Country has apparently even heard of ExxonMobil's Coal-to-Methanol-to-Gasoline concept, especially since ExxonMobil were, it seems, gearing up to market it in a big and polished way.

As additional evidence attesting to their intent, we enclose, via the initial link in this dispatch, yet another obvious marketing tool ExxonMobil had developed to explain and promote that Coal conversion technology.

Comment, with additional links, follows excerpts from the initial link in this dispatch to:

"Coal to Clean Gasoline

Xinjin Zhao, Ron D. McGihon and Samuel A. Tabak; ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Company, USA, discuss ExxonMobil's methanol to gasoline technology for the production of clean gasoline from coal.

There are two commercially demonstrated routes for converting coal to transportation fuels through gasification. The widely known Fischer-Tropsch process was first discovered in the 1920s. It has been commercially practiced by Sasol in several different forms ... .

(See, for just one example

South Africa seeks US Coal-to-Jet Fuel Patent | Research & Development; concerning: "United States Patent Application 20100264061A1 - Synthetic Aviation Fuel; 2010; Assignee: Sasol Technology Ltd., Johannesburg; Abstract: The invention relates to a Fischer-Tropsch derived aviation fuel, which fuel is used either as a fuel on its own or as a component in an aviation fuel blend ... .Distillate fuel derived from the Fischer-Tropsch (FT) process is highly paraffinic and has excellent burning properties and very low sulfur. The FT process is used industrially to convert synthesis gas ... derived from coal ... into hydrocarbons".

Although, we must also note that Sasol has, as well, developed technology for the direct liquefaction of Coal, as seen in:

South Africa 100% Coal Conversion | Research & Development; concerning: "United States Patent 4,251,346 - Process for Coal Liquefaction; 1981; Assignee: SASOL One, Proprietary, Limited, Orange Free State; Abstract: The invention provides a process for the liquefaction of coal. The comminuted coal is slurried in a solvent or pasting oil and digested ... . The solvent or pasting oil is obtained wholly or mostly by recycling from the distilled fractionation of the reaction products. ... The process can be controlled so that the coal is converted virtually completely into distillable products, more particularly predominantly in the crude diesel fuel range. Process for converting coal directly into predominantly gaseous to liquid products suitable for making hydrocarbon fuel".)

Although it is less known, there is another commercially proven alternative for converting coal to gasoline,
through methanol.

ExxonMobil’s methanol-to-gasoline (MTG) process efficiently converts crude methanol to high quality clean gasoline. When coupled with commercially proven coal gasification and methanol synthesis technology, MTG offers an effective route to premium transportation fuel from coal.

Both coal gasification and methanol synthesis are commercially mature technologies with several commercially available technologies for both steps.

(See, for instance, our report of:

Coal to Methanol - Eastman & Air Products | Research & Development; concerning: "Commercial-Scale Demonstration of a Liquid-Phase Methanol Process; Eastman Chemical Company; Kingsport,TN; Abstract: The Eastman Chemical Company operates a coal gasification complex in Kingsport. Tennessee. Methanol is currently produced from syngas.")

Mobil discovered the MTG process in the 1970s and commercialised the technology in New Zealand in the mid 1980s.

(We've previously reported on New Zealand's synfuel efforts, as in:

New Zealand Converts Methane to Gasoline | Research & Development; Chemical Engineering News; 1987; 

Abstract: For slightly more than a year, New Zealand Synthetic Fuels Corp. has been operating the world's first plant to convert methane to gasoline";

and, we'll attempt to find out more about their work, as ExxonMobil seem to assert, in converting Methanol, in addition to Methane, into Gasoline. Either, as we have documented from multiple other sources, is, on a practical basis, feasible.)

MTG gasoline is fully compatible with conventional refinery gasoline.

Technically, methanol sources for the MTG process could be from ... coal gasification (or) biomass

(See, for instance:

Exxon Co-Gasifies Coal and Carbon-Recycling Biomass | Research & Development; concerning: "US Patent Application 20100083575 - Co-gasification Process for Hydrocarbon Solids and Biomass; 2010; Assignee: ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Company; Abstract: (The) co-gasification of carbonaceous solids (coal) and biomass ... wherein the solid carbonaceous particles comprise coal (and)  wherein the biomass comprises biological matter selected from wood, plant matter, municipal waste, green waste, byproducts of farming or food processing waste, sewage sludge, black liquor from wood pulp, and algae"

wherein the resulting "synthesis gas" can be used for the production of Methanol and hydrocarbons.)

A third option for coal conversion, direct coal liquefaction, is also attracting renewed attention due to the recent commercial plant being built by Shenhua in Inner Mongolia, a Chinese coal company.

(Although ExxonMobil say that Shenhua is building, perhaps now operating, a Coal-to-Liquid plant in Inner Mongolia that uses "direct coal liquefaction", that statement might be in slight error.

See, for example:

GE Converts China Coal to Methanol | Research & Development; concerning: "One of the World’s Largest Coal-to-Olefins Gasification Units Starts Up in China; BEIJING, CHINA—August 12, 2010—The gasification unit at one of the world’s largest coal-to-olefins projects successfully started up at the China Shenhua Coal to Liquid and Chemical Co. Ltd.’s project in Baotou, Inner Mongolia (Shenhua Baotou Coal to Olefins project). The gasification unit uses advanced coal gasification technology provided by General Electric. The gasification technology converts coal into a synthesis gas (or syngas).  Syngas can then be used to produce methanol, which will be transformed into olefins ... "; and:

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 ... . (Shenhua) said at a forum held in east China's Anhui Province that the group's CTL project in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region ... brought more than 100 million yuan (15.38 million U.S. dollars) in profits (in one quarter). The CTL project ... is seen as an important way to provide an alternative to petroleum";

wherein it seems that Shenua's Mongolia operations utilize an "indirect" Coal conversion technology.

However, information available from West Virginia University, as via:

Coal Liquefaction Project | NRAC & Shenhua Group; wherein it's related that: "The Shenhua Group Corporation is developing the world's first commercial coal liquefaction facility to transform coal into diesel fuel and gasoline in the Inner Mongolia, China. West Virginia University (WVU) and Shenhua Group Corporation are to conduct research on the ecology, environment, and economy of the most affected region in China (and, the joint research includes) Integrated DCL and ICL processes";

suggests that Shenua will actually be converting "coal into diesel fuel and gasoline", with the help of WVU, using both Direct Coal Liquefaction, "DCL", and Indirect Coal Liquefaction, "ICL", technologies.

And, we must note, that, as seen in:

China Awarded 2010 US Liquefaction Patent | Research & Development; concerning: "United States Patent 7,763,167 - Process for Direct Coal Liquefaction; 2010; Assignee: Shenua Coal Liquefaction Corporation;  Abstract: Process for direct coal liquefaction of coal, including: ... fractionating hydrogenation products into oil products and a hydrogen donor recycling solvent";

Shenua does have in hand their very own Direct Coal Liquefaction technology.)

The commercial Shenhua plant will be a significant step in determining the viability of the direct liquefaction process route.

Both the Fischer-Tropsch and MTG processes convert coal into synthesis gas before converting it to the final liquid products. However, their respective product slates are very different. The Fischer-Tropsch process produces a broad spectrum of straight chain paraffinic hydrocarbons that require upgrading to produce diesel fuel, lube feedstock and paraffinic naphtha for petrochemical applications.

In contrast, MTG selectively converts methanol to one simple product: a very low sulfur, low benzene high quality gasoline.

Due to the unique low sulfur and low benzene characteristics of the MTG gasoline product, it can be a
valuable blending component for meeting environmental regulations specific to sulfur and benzene.

ExxonMobil recently (announced) the first US CTL project based on MTG technology. DKRW Advanced Fuels LLC has licensed ExxonMobil’s MTG technology through its subsidiary Medicine Bow Fuel and Power LLC for a 15 000 bpd CTL plant in Medicine Bow, Wyoming.

(For a little more info, see:

Medicine Bow Methanol Project, Carbon County, Wyoming - Chemicals Technology | Research & Development.

We're unable, due to technical difficulties, to link to other of our previous reports on the Medicine Bow Coal conversion project; but, we will follow up in the near future with additional information.)

This article will provide an update of the recent development of MTG process and the recent commercial
activities for the production of gasoline from coal.

Economics of coal-to-liquid are very complex and difficult to accurately estimate. Part of the reason is that no CTL plants have been built worldwide since the 1980s while construction cost has significantly increased. Moreover, technology improvements to synfuel applications have also occurred in the interim

The capital cost of CTL is also strongly dependent on location, coal type, product outlet ... and coal supplies.

(Let's see, now, as far as "coal type" and "coal supply" goes, we have, in West Virginia and Pennsylvania, just plenty of high-grade, high-Btu bituminous Coal, similar to what Eastman and Air Products, as in our citation of them above, are using to make Methanol down in Kingsport, Tennessee. Regarding "location" and "product outlet", just how close do we have to be to the dense population centers, and oil refining complexes, on the east coast?

But, perhaps the following is the most important factor that has hobbled us so far.)

Furthermore, CTL projects in different countries can be affected by government policy ... .

For example, the surge of CTL or chemicals projects in China is very much driven by energy security to satisfy the increasing energy demand for the growing Chinese economy. On the other hand, the CTL interests in the US and other Western countries tend to be more driven by the market opportunities associated with the surging oil prices.

It is difficult to provide summary judgment on the economics of CTL projects as a whole. However, the
following general conclusions can be drawn for most CTL projects:

(1) Recent studies in public domain indicate that the required capital for CTL projects ranges anywhere
between US$ 60 000 - 120 000/daily bbl of liquid products (and, as) more CTL projects move forward and more plants are being built, there will be significant opportunities for cost reduction of all technology options.

(Note that the above "$60,000" per "daily barrel" is only the capital cost. It is paid only once and is intended, as in all capital investments, to be paid off, amortized, over time. The statement "'$60,000" per "daily barrel'"  applies, conceptually, only to the first, or to just any one representative, day of total production; and, there should be many, many days of production, and many, many barrels, to, ultimately, divide that "60,000" by.

As the "required capital" is paid off over time, that debt load amounts to only a fraction of the actual daily, per-barrel production cost over that time. Statements like the above can be dreadfully misleading; and, someone really should implore an economics expert at one of our local universities to explain the true economics of Coal liquefaction.

Most importantly, keep this in mind:

The published, per-barrel prices for our currently imported crude oil are also dreadfully misleading. As we documented, for one example, in:

The Real Price of Gasoline | Research & Development; concerning: "An Analysis of the Hidden External Costs Consumers Pay To Fuel Their Automobiles; International Center for Technology Assessment; Washington, D.C.: November 1998";

the actual costs, to us, of importing Oil, through loss of foreign exchange; loss of tax income; military and defense obligations; and, loss of American jobs, results in a real cost, per gallon of Gasoline, to us consumers, that is at least 60%, and maybe even 100%, higher than the price we see posted at the pump.

That would be dramatically different if our Gasoline were to be made from our abundant domestic Coal.)

(2) Many studies indicate that the CTL will become a competitive option if the oil price remains at approximately US$ 45 - 60 /bbl

(Oil prices rise as EU closes in on new treaty - BusinessWeek; "December 9, 2011; Benchmark crude rose $1.07 Friday to end the week at $99.41 per barrel in New York. Brent crude, which is used to price foreign oil imported by some U.S. refineries, added 53 cents to finish at $108.47 in London.")

(3) MTG converts 90% of the hydrocarbon in methanol to a clean gasoline product which is fully compatible
with conventional refinery gasoline derived from petroleum.

(4) No engine modifications or vehicle modifications are required to use the MTG gasoline.

Both coal gasification and methanol synthesis are commercially mature technologies with several commercially established routes for both steps.

MTG, as a commercially proven process with nearly a decade of operational experience, provides a low
technical risk option for the production of clean gasoline.

Interests in coal to clean transportation fuel will continue as long as the pressure on oil price remains high.

ExxonMobil’s commercially proven methanol-to-gasoline (MTG) technology, coupled with established commercial coal gasification and methanol technologies, provides an economically competitive and low risk option for the production of clean gasoline from coal."


Straight from the mouth of Big Oil incarnate, we have "an economically competitive and low risk" way to make "clean gasoline from coal".

And, keep in mind, that way was "economically competitive" when the price of oil was "US$ 45 - 60 /bbl".

Further, keep in mind as well, that, if we wish to conserve a little of our Coal, to keep our lights on and our grand kids employed and our mining traditions alive well into the future, then we can, since Exxon's technology has the intermediate step of first converting Coal into Methanol, which is then converted into Gasoline, as seen, for example, in:

Chicago Recycles CO2 to Methanol | Research & Development; concerning: "United States Patent 4,609,441 - Electrochemical Reduction of Aqueous Carbon Dioxide to Methanol; 1986; Assignee: Gas Research Institute, Chicago; Abstract: A method of producing methanol from carbon dioxide"; and, in:

USDOE 1976 Atmospheric CO2 to Methanol | Research & Development; concerning: "United States Patent 3,959,094 - Electrolytic Synthesis of Methanol from CO2; 1976; Assignee: The USA as represented by the USDOE; Abstract: A method and system for synthesizing methanol from the CO2";

just convert a little of what some claim is our excess Carbon Dioxide into Methanol, and, then, through the "MTG"(r) process touted herein by ExxonMobil, convert that CO2-derived Methanol into "clean gasoline".

West Virginia Coal Association - PO Box 3923 - Charleston, WV 25339 | 304-342-4153 | website developed by brickswithoutstraw