United States Patent: 4018663

Actually, the USDOE, upon its creation, only inherited the invention we report herein from the US Department of Interior, along with the US Bureau of Mines and it's Morgantown, WV, Coal Research Center.

Nonetheless, it was a West Virginia scientist who, better than 30 years ago, revealed that we could, as in our excerpts following, "produce larger yields of gasoline and diesel oil" through his "improved coal liquefaction process".



And, it is an improved process, since it addresses the issue of "asphaltenes", which is a label that can be applied to the still-carbonaceous residues left behind by many, earlier, Coal conversion methodologies.

In this West Virginia "Coal Liquefaction Process", it appears that nearly 100% of the Carbon content in raw Coal is converted into desired hydrocarbons, without the formation of a residue that must then be further processed by other means to achieve complete conversion.

Comment, with additional reference links, follows excerpts from:

"United States Patent 4,018,663 - Coal Liquefaction Process

Date: April, 1977

Inventor: Clarence Karr, Jr.; Morgantown, WV, Coal Research Center

Assignee: The United States of America

Abstract: An improved coal liquefaction process is provided which enables conversion of a coal-oil slurry to a synthetic crude refinable to produce larger yields of gasoline and diesel oil. The process is characterized by a two-step operation applied to the slurry prior to catalytic desulfurization and hydrogenation in which the slurry undergoes partial hydrogenation to crack and hydrogenate asphaltenes and the partially hydrogenated slurry is filtered to remove minerals prior to subsequent catalytic hydrogenation.

Claims: An improved liquefaction process comprising passing a liquid coal slurry containing suspended materials under a pressure of hydrogen of 1000-2000 psi and at a temperature in the range 400 to 450C through a first reactor containing a charge of porous inert inorganic nominally non-catalytic material having a sufficiently high pore size and surface area so as to promote at least partial hydrogenation of asphaltenes, passing the partially hydrogenated hydrogen-pressurized slurry to a second reactor to contact a charge of hydrogenation catalyst at a temperature in the range 350 to 400C and removing a liquid fuel from said second reactor as product.

Background: The present invention relates to a process for producing liquid fuels from coal. More particularly, it relates to an improved coal liquefaction process for converting coal to a crude petroleum refinable by conventional petroleum refining techniques to produce gasoline and/or diesel fuel.

Summary: The present invention represents, and it is the principal object of this invention to provide, a modification of the Synthoil process in a manner which permits production of a crude oil convertible to gasoline and diesel oil by conventional oil refining procedures."


First of all, you will find many references made to the above-noted "Synthoil process" in the full Disclosures of many of the US Patents for Coal conversion technology we have already brought to your attention, especially those which originated within various branches of the US Government, such as the Bureau of Mines or the later USDOE.

And, it seems timely now to submit the seminal documentation of the "Synthoil process", so that it is clear what it is all about. But, what it is all about isn't at first clear from a cursory read of either the Title or the Abstract.

So, we'll take a closer look at:

Patent US3840456 - "United State Patent 3,840,456 - Low-Sulfur Fuel from Sulfur-Bearing Coals

Date: October, 1974

Inventor: Paul Yavorsky, et. al., Pittsburgh, PA

Assignee: The USA as represented by the Secretary of the Interior

Coal, lignite, oils, etc. are desulfurized by rapidly passing a fluid stream of the feedstock through an immobilized bed reactor, in the presence of a catalyst, under heat and pressure, while a reducing gas is simultaneously flowing through the reactor at substantially above turbulent flow velocity.

In the not-too-distant future, there will be shortages of low-sulfur coal in parts of the United States. As such, more and more high-sulfur coal will have to be employed as fuel in power generating stations. In view of the potential pollution from the consumption of high-sulfur coal, either the high-sulfur coal will have to be desulfurized or the oxides of sulfur will have to be removed from flue gases.

(We) have now discovered a new and improved process for desulfuriziing carbonaceous materials such as coal. Both pyritic and organic sulfur are removed. Broadly, the invention comprises rapidly passing a fluidized stream of the raw material through a packed or immobilized bed of desulfurization-cracking catalyst pellets while simultaneously passing a reducing gas through the bed at a velocity substantially above turbulent flow.

The combination of turbulent flow and an immobilized reactor bed of catalyst pellets maintain continuously active and rapid desulfurization conditions, and minimizes liquefaction consumption of the reducing gas.

Preferred catalysts are alumina pellets impregnated with cobalt and molybdenum also containing silica ... .

Such catalysts are commercially available.

Most of the resultant product is soluble in benzene.

(And) the benzene-soluble fraction is termed "fuel oil product".

Claims: A process for desulfurizing coal (which comprises) passing a fluid stream of coal in a liquid slurry through a reactor (as specified in the full Disclosure).

The process ... wherein the slurry liquid is selected from ... anthracene ... and said liquid product. "


To be perfectly clear, what the Pittsburgh USBM is describing is, simply, a relatively small variation on processes and processing equipment that has, and had at the time this Patent was issued, been used for a very long time in conventional petroleum refineries.

The terms to be applied are "hydro-treating", "hydro-cracking", and "hydro-desulurization".

An explanation can be found in:

Hydrodesulfurization - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia; which tells us that: "Hydrodesulfurization is a catalytic chemical process widely used to remove sulfur from ... petroleum products".

Further: The reason the process of United States Patent 4,018,663 prevents the formation of heavy, "asphaltene" Coal residues is precisely because the petroleum industry first developed "hydro-treaters" specifically to "crack" heavy, Hydrogen-deficient, and Sulfur-bearing, crude oils and petroleum refinery residues.

It is also, actually, a variation on a much earlier Coal liquefaction technology about which we have already reported; and, one which, in fact, was, first, awarded a United States Patent, and, later, the Nobel Prize.

As seen in our reports of:

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

CoalTL Wins Nobel Prize - in 1931 | Research & Development.

Note that the liquid in which the raw Coal is to be mixed prior to being hydro-treated can be "anthracene".

And, to be clear about where we might get some of that, see:

Anthracene oil - definition of Anthracene oil by the Free Online Dictionary, Thesaurus and Encyclopedia.; and be reassured that it is an "oil ... which distills over from coal tar", and which we could make plenty of in any old, otherwise unused, Coke oven.

Also, we note that one by-product of such "hydro-processing", especially of Sulfur-bearing Coals, is likely to be Hydrogen Sulfide, H2S, which, as seen in:

Exxon Methane and Hydrogen from H2S and Carbon Monoxide | Research & Development; concerning: "United States Patent 4,517,171 - Synthesis of H2 and CH4 from H2S and CO; 1985; Assignee: Exxon Research and Engineering Company; Abstract: Hydrogen and methane are synthesized from a gaseous feed comprising a mixture of H2S and CO";

are especially intriguing when that H2S is reacted, in accordance with the process of "USP 4,517,171", with Carbon Monoxide, which, as seen in:

1915 CO2 Recycling | Research & Development; concerning: "United States Patent 1,163,922 - Producing Carbon Monoxide from Carbon Dioxide; 1915; Inventor: Charles Hillhouse, NYC, NY; This invention relates to the production of carbon monoxide (CO) gas and the controlling method embraces mixing powdered carbon and carbon dioxide (CO2) gas under sufficiently high temperature to cause a carbon molecule to combine with one of the oxygen elements of the CO2, resulting in 2CO";

we can make by reacting Carbon Dioxide, recovered from whatever handy source, with red-hot Coal.

Finally, free, elemental Hydrogen is required by all of the Coal liquefaction and petroleum refining technologies we reported on, and made reference to, herein.

Since Big Oil has been using "hydro-treaters" for a very long time, rest assured that he knows how to get plenty of it, and cheaply.

For the rest of us, we suggest some Coal Country alternatives, as can be seen in our reports of:

H2 for Coal Hydrogenation from Coal Gasification By-Product | Research & Development; concerning: "United States Patent 4,693,883 - Ammonia Utilization Process; 1987; Assignee: Institute of Gas Technology, Chicago; An ammonia utilization process substantially eliminates by-product ammonia gas produced during hydrogen forming gasification processes by recycling ... ammonia to a hydrogen forming gasifier wherein by-product ammonia gas is converted to desired hydrogen product gas";

wherein excess Hydrogen is produced in a process for the Steam-gasification of Coal intended primarily to generate hydrocarbon synthesis gas; and:

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";

wherein Hydrogen is generated, along with Oxygen, by certain strains of Algae cultivated in "bio-reactors", which can be configured so as to utilize Coal-fired power plant exhaust gas as a nutrient stream; and:

Hydrogen from Wind Power | Research & Development; concerning: "United States Patent 7,329,099 - Wind Turbine and Energy Distribution System; 2008; Abstract: A new energy distribution system is proposed that will capture ... wind energy ...  which is utilized to electrolyze H2O into Oxygen and Hydrogen"; wherein the wind is harnessed to generate electricity, as it already is being so harnessed in Coal Country, as seen in:

Mountaineer Wind Energy Center - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia; concerning the: "Mountaineer Wind Energy Center - a wind farm ... in Preston and Tucker counties in the US state of West Virginia."

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