Getting the 'Appalachian Gold Rush' Right - News, Sports, Jobs - The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

Now, we don't really want to be seen as taking a poop in the Easter basket of a guy, who, in essence, signs one of the pension checks that's rather desperately needed by our impoverished little enclave each month, but: it seems as if even the esteemed and honorable CEO of Bayer Corporation, Greg Babe, may God bless his beneficent soul, like many of our Coal Country's ink-stained wretches, has been overcome by the vapors wafting up out of the Marcellus Shale.

 

Since our above-mentioned Bayer pensioner also happens to be a former, highly-trained Coal Mine Fire & Rescue Team member, he feels it to be our bounden duty to try to get Mr. Babe out of the exhaust gas returns, and into a fresh air intake entry.

We attempt to do that, following excerpts from the above link to:

 

"Getting the 'Appalachian Gold Rush' Right

 

June 15, 2011

 

By GREG BABE - Guest Columnist , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

Editor's Note: Guest columnist Babe is president and CEO of Bayer Corporation and Bayer MaterialScience LLC. He is also a member of the "Marcellus to Manufacturing" task force formed by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin. He is a native of New Martinsville.

The vast Marcellus shale natural gas deposits have become big news in the Appalachian states and the subject of much discussion among citizens, state and federal legislators and regulators. A recent issue of TIME magazine features an eight-page cover story on shale gas. The headline: "This Rock Could Power the World."

Shale gas development has been likened to the California Gold Rush of the 1840s and '50s. This century's modern Forty-niners are working to develop one of the great energy finds of the last half-century: hundreds of trillions of cubic feet of natural gas trapped deep underground in shale layers. The Marcellus shale field - extending from southern New York, across Pennsylvania, and into western Maryland, West Virginia and Ohio - may contain as much as 500 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. It's potentially the world's biggest natural gas field. Realizing this great potential will require a balanced approach; one that takes into account community interests, the environment and long-term economic prosperity.

There's no denying that shale gas development can produce enormous economic benefits to our region.

As long as we get it right. There is a flip side.

There are environmental concerns associated with the horizontal well drilling and hydraulic fracturing that unlocks the shale gas.

(As we have earlier reported, as in: The Marcellus Shale, and "Gasland" | Research & Development; and in: Marcellus Shale Gas and the "Terrible, Horrible...Very Bad" | Research & Development; such "horizontal well drilling and hydraulic fracturing" can lead to the discharge of toxic chemicals into groundwater, and other, perhaps modestly entertaining, undesired phenomena, like well water that can be lit on fire. Such, we submit, should indeed be considered among those understated "environmental concerns". - JtM)

All interested stakeholders are working hard to address them. Strict regulations on well and monitoring standards should help the benefits of shale gas development outweigh the risks.

Two things are certain: First, the Marcellus shale formation offers a tremendous promise of abundant natural gas to industries and consumers as long as it is managed and maintained effectively and responsibly. And second, everyone involved must be aware of their environmental responsibilities and be fully accountable for their operations.

Getting it right will require developers, governments, non-government organizations, regulators, industrial leaders and citizens to start a conversation and keep it going to everyone's benefit. The great potential of Marcellus shale puts Appalachia in a promising position right now. The 'Appalachian Gold Rush' is on, and our region can become a model of American energy ingenuity."

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We humbly submit that such "American energy ingenuity" should be, and has already been, although no one seems to know it, applied to what is, in fact, our greatest and most abundant natural resource: Coal.

Our understanding of Bayer Corporation's keen direct interest in Marcellus Shale natural gas lies, for the most part, in one specific component of that gas: Ethane.

The Ethane, separated from the other components of Natural Gas, including the Carbon Dioxide that is always a, sometimes major, contaminant in Natural Gas, would then be processed in an "Ethane Cracker", the main product of which is the simpler hydrocarbon, "Ethylene", which has broad utility in the synthesis and manufacture of a number of valuable products, including a variety of "plastics", which we presume will be the intended end use at Bayer Corporation's facility, just north of New Martinsville, WV.

More about those plans and potentials can be learned via:

Ethane Crackers – a Marcellus Opportunity for WV Northern Panhandle | Spilman Marcellus News

 

"Ethane Crackers - a Marcellus Opportunity for WV Northern Panhandle

 

Bayer Wants Ethane Crackers for Marcellus Gas. Does anyone else?

The overwhelming narrative this time last year was that building an ethane cracker plant in this region is a silly idea.

It’s too expensive and there’s no infrastructure to support it, the arguments went. Recently, though, there have been more than a few rumblings of a change of heart.

First, some background: An ethane cracker plant converts ethane — a component of “wet” natural gas, such as the kind found in southwestern Pennsylvania — to ethylene, which is used to make plastic. Chemical companies, such as Bayer, PPG, NOVA and LANXESS, use ethylene as feedstock to make their products.

Currently, more than 90 percent of that material is made in crackers in the Gulf Coast, and a small portion is made in Sarnia, Ontario.

A number of pipeline projects to transport the stripped out liquids from Marcellus gas to crackers in the Gulf are in various stages of execution.

But what about plopping a cracker where the actual gas is?

As Bloomberg reported last month, Bayer is on the prowl for a tenant or buyer for some of the acreage available at its West Virginia facilities in New Martinsville and Institute. The company is looking to organize investors — chemical companies and other stakeholders — to attract a cracker plant to be built on that land. If the effort succeeds, Bayer stands to gain both a fuel for its machinery and a feedstock for its product.

West Virginia has a strong base of chemical and polymer manufacturers located along the Ohio River valley. It is highly conceivable that many of these plants could find value in locally sourced feedstocks, such as those which might be obtained via ethane cracking."

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Indeed, we are certain that companies, like Bayer, "could find value in locally sourced feedstocks", such as Ethane, and, by extension, through the Ethane crackers, Ethylene.

There's a better way to, "locally", get them.

If it is the Ethane we want, then, as in:

Ethane from Coal at 8 Cents a Pound | Research & Development; which concerns: "Synthesis of Light Hydrocarbon Gases from Coal Gas; American Chemical Society, 1976;  Battelle Columbus Labs, OH; Abstract: A process ... that produces a product stream of methane rich in ethane and propane. The process would make use of the existing technology for coal gasification";

we can make all that Ethane as a very inexpensive, 8 cents-per-pound, by-product generated in a process that synthesizes, primarily, Methane and Propane, from our abundant Coal.

Any comment, concerning the rather vast utility of Methane, especially in terms of the Carbon Dioxide recycling technologies which utilize it, and which we've many times documented, aside, we wonder just how much Ethane, extracted from the horizontally-drilled and hydraulically-fractured Marcellus Shale will cost.

Regardless of that, note that the "Ethane" would in any case, have to be "cracked" to yield, for Bayer and other plastics manufacturers, the seemingly-desired "Ethylene".

Interestingly, one way to accomplish such "cracking" of, let's say 8-cent Coal-derived Ethane, to make Ethylene, is by reacting it with - - wait for it - - Carbon Dioxide.

As seen in:

CO2 Converts Ethane to Ethylene | Research & Development; concerning:  "Oxidative Dehydrogenation of Ethane to Ethylene with CO2; American Chemical Society; July, 2009; The Ohio State University and (the) Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing; Abstract: The catalytic performance of Fe−Cr/ZrO2 catalysts, ... were examined in oxidative dehydrogenation of ethane to ethylene using CO2 as an oxidant";

Ethane can be reacted with Carbon Dioxide, perhaps recovered from a Shale Gas stripping, cleaning and pumping facility, and be thereby transformed into the desired Ethylene.

Coal, however, could make that additional step, with the attendant expense of building and operating such an abundance of Ethane "crackers", unnecessary, since, as seen in:

USDOE 1986 Ethylene from Coal | Research & Development; concerning: "USP 4,563,197 - Production of Ethylene and Other Hydrocarbons from Coal; 1986; Assignee: The United States of America, as Represented by the Department of Energy; Abstract: A process for the production of economically significant amounts of ethyl and other hydrocarbon compounds, such as benzene, from coal"; and, in:

 

DuPont 1952 Ethylene from Coal | Research & Development; concerning: "USP 2,623,011 - Preparation of Olefins by Coal Carbonization; 1952; Assignee: E.I. DuPont and Company; Abstract: This invention relates to an improved process for the preparation of unsaturated hydrocarbons, and more particularly, to the preparation of ethylene by the carbonization of coal";

 

we know, and have known for quite a long time, that we can make any and all of the Ethylene any of Bayer's, or anyone else's, manufacturing facilities might ever want, or need, directly from our abundant Coal.


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