Process of hydrogenating carbon compounds under high pressure and elevated temperature

We've previously documented some of the Coal Liquefaction technology developed early in the last century by the German scientist, Friedrich Bergius.

Our reports have included one concerning a United States Patent awarded to him for Coal conversion technology, as in:

Bergius 1928 Coal Liquefaction | Research & Development; concerning: "US Patent 1,669,439 - Process for Distilling and Liquefying Coal; 1928; Friedrich Bergius, Germany; Abstract: This invention relates to improvements in a correlated process for distilling and liquefying coal";


and, another concerning the subsequent award of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry to him, as in:

CoalTL Wins Nobel Prize - in 1931 | Research & Development; which dispatch includes confirmation of the fact that the Bergius process could convert "no less than 80%" of Coal into "oils", and, that the technology could be employed to do the same thing with Carbon-recycling, renewable "timber".

As we noted for you in our comments in the above dispatch concerning the 1931 Nobel Prize, we were somewhat puzzled that the label applied by the Nobel Committee to the Bergius process, as being one of two worthy "High Pressure Techniques", didn't seem consistent with the technology disclosed by Bergius in his 1928 "US Patent 1,669,439 - Process for Distilling and Liquefying Coal".

As it happens, the Nobel Prize wasn't awarded to Bergius for that particular, patented Coal conversion process, but, for another he had developed nearly a decade earlier, with an intriguing twist or two, as seen in excerpts, with comment inserted and appended, from the initial link in this dispatch to:

"United States Patent 1,391,664 - Hydrogenating Carbon Compounds Under High Pressure

Date: September, 1921

Inventor: Friedrich Bergius, Germany

Assignee: The Chemical Foundation, Inc., Delaware

(Now, here is one of the intriguing, let's call it discouraging, "twists":

This United States Patent might not have been applied for by Bergius, himself. It might have been a United States Patent that was a direct, translated copy of a German patent already issued, and then, subsequent to WWI, simply seized by the United States as a portion of the war booty that was taken from Germany subsequent to the Treaty of Versailles.

More about it can be learned via:

The Chemical Foundation, Inc - Journal of Industrial & Engineering Chemistry (ACS Publications); and:

UNITED STATES v. CHEMICAL FOUNDATION, Inc. | Supreme Court | LII / Legal Information Institute;

wherein it's revealed that "The Chemical Foundation" was actually set up by the United States Government to assume ownership of many thousands of Germany-originated patents from the Custodian of Alien property, and, that, the Bergius patent was likely one of those "seized pursuant to the Trading with the Enemy Act of October 6, 1917 ... and the Act of November 4, 1918"; and, that, "the Chemical Foundation was incorporated under the laws of Delaware. The certificate of incorporation discloses that it was created and empowered to purchase enemy-owned patents seized by the Custodian and to hold the 'property and rights so acquired in a fiduciary capacity for the Americanization of such industries".

According to those, and other, sources, many thousands of German patents were so acquired, and, the "Chemical Foundation", composed of and directed by representatives from American industries, managed them so tyrannically and corruptly that the United States Government was compelled to bring an anti-trust suit against that company, which the Government itself had set up, for violating laws prohibiting monopolies.

So, it is little wonder that we never heard of the Bergius process for converting Coal into liquid hydrocarbon fuels.)

Abstract: This invention is an improvement in the process of hydrogenating, under high pressure and at an elevated temperature, natural coal or other products of carbonization of wood and other vegetable matter (which) are carbonized by the heat of the process. By such process, these carbonaceous materials are transformed into liquids.

(That is, renewable and Carbon-recycling botanical materials are, in essence, converted into Charcoal in the process itself, and, then, hydrogenated and liquefied right along with Coal. It is, thus, similar in concept, and in some aspects of technology, to other processes we have documented for you, as in:

Mobil Co-Liquefies Coal & CO2-Recycling Wastes | Research & Development; concerning: "United States Patent 4,089,773 - Liquefaction of Solid Carbonaceous Materials; 1978; Mobil Oil Corporation; Abstract: This invention provides an improved process for solubilizing coal and other solid carbonaceous materials (and is a) process for dissolution of solid carbonaceous material ... wherein the solid carbonaceous material is coal (and/or) partly municipal refuse (and/or) sewage sludge (and/or) cellulosic waste.")

In order to secure these effects according to the invention care is taken to continuously circulate the atmosphere in contact with the carbon compound to be reacted on. Such circulation whereby a part of the gaseous atmosphere in contact with the raw material is continuously drawn out of the reaction space and again returned offers an opportunity to effect heat exchange which is necessary to secure the reaction temperature within the reaction vessel, and it affords at the same time an opportunity to separate the reaction products from the reaction gas.

The possibility of an efficient temperature control in the above said manner by circulating the gas which is in contact with raw material broadly depends on the fact that the gas is under very high pressure of say 100 atmospheres and that therefore a comparatively small quantity or volume of the gas is adapted to carry considerable quantities of heat. I order to secure the effect aimed at it is necessary to circulate a quantity of gas which is considerably in excess of the quantity of hydrogen which is consumed by the reaction.

(So, we need an excess of Hydrogen to circulate throughout the process; and, as seen in:

USDOE Algae Make Hydrogen for Coal and CO2 Hydrogenation | Research & Development; concerning: "Photosynthetic Hydrogen and Oxygen Production by Green Algae; USDOE; Abstract: Photosynthesis research at Oak Ridge National Laboratory is focused on hydrogen and oxygen production by green algae in the context of its potential as a renewable fuel and chemical feed stock";

one way we can get Hydrogen is by cultivating certain strains Algae, which, in the cyclic course of their photosynthetic business of consuming Carbon Dioxide, can be made to excrete Hydrogen as a byproduct.

Other efficient means of obtaining Hydrogen, as we have otherwise documented, and as we will further report, are available as well.

Further, Bergius seems to stipulate that the free Hydrogen circulates throughout the total process, with only some of it being consumed in the Carbon hydrogenation reactions; and, that, "under very high pressure" the circulating Hydrogen is able to convey "considerable quantities of heat" from an exothermic reaction to a needed endothermic reaction. The implication is that energy economies are thus achieved similar to those described, perhaps more clearly, in related Coal conversion technology disclosed in our report of:

ExxonMobil Self-Powered Coal Conversion | Research & Development; concerning: "United States Patent 3,254,023 - Heat Balancing in Organic Reactions; 1966; Socony Mobil Oil Company; Abstract: This invention relates to a method of carrying out an exothermic chemical reaction and an endothermic reaction in a single reaction zone wherein the heat evolved in the exothermic reaction is utilized to effect the endothermic reaction";

wherein one of ExxonMobil's precedent companies describes how heat can be reclaimed in a Coal conversion technology that was a contemporary of the Bergius invention herein, the Fischer-Tropsch process, which "United States Patent 3,254,023" discloses itself to be a variant of, and be circulated back into the process to help drive some of the needed endothermic chemical Coal conversion reactions.

We'll further note that high pressures are needed in the Bergius process described herein to contain the heated Hydrogen, and, to help, as we would put it, "force" the hydrogenation reaction between that Hydrogen and the Carbon.

Such high pressures might seen undesirable or impractical, but, consider that the Bergius process was one of the technologies reduced to practice by Germany during WWII to help supply her military with liquid fuel.

If they could handle the pressures back then, more than half a century ago, one must presume that modern chemical engineering practices are well-able to efficiently accommodate such pressures now.)

Claims: A process of hydrogenating solid carbon compounds which consists in heating in a retort such compounds in the presence of a hydrogen atmosphere and under high reaction pressure to a high reaction temperature, continuously abstracting a mixture of reaction products and reaction gas, condensing the reaction products, reheating the abstracted reaction gas and returning it to the retort."

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All of which serves to transform Coal and Carbon-recycling "wood and other vegetable matter into liquids".

Again, the needed high pressures could be handled, and were acceptable, even in the chemical processing industry of the early twentieth century; so much so that the process herein was awarded a Nobel prize for chemical technology innovation, and then reduced to industrial practice during World War II.

We'll have a little more to offer on the Bergius process itself in the future; but, we wanted to submit the basic United States Patent on this direct Coal hydrogenation technology at this point, since, in addition to use of the Bergius process during WWII, there have been much later evolutions of the technology, with efficiency improvements, established by our more contemporary petroleum and chemical processing industries; all of those improvements founded, in essence, on the principals of direct Coal hydrogenation and liquefaction established by our subject herein: "United States Patent 1,391,664", issued all the way back in 1921, wherein both Coal and renewable "wood and other vegetable matter" can be together directly transformed into hydrocarbon "liquids".


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