United States Patent: 8449632

West Virginia University knows how to convert Coal and Carbon-recycling wastes into Petroleum.

We spotted this rather extraordinary West Virginia University technology for converting Coal, in combination with various, some unpleasant, Carbon-recycling materials and wastes, directly into liquid hydrocarbons not long after it was published last year, as:

"US Patent Application 20120091044 - Sewage Material in Coal Liquefaction; April, 2012; Inventor: Alfred H. Stiller; Abstract: The present disclosure provides methods and systems for coal liquefaction using a sewage material. A method of obtaining a de-ashed coal extract includes exposing a coal to a sewage material in the presence of a coal-derived solvent to form a slurry, elevating the temperature of the slurry to facilitate liquefying the coal and liberating a volatile matter, and separating the insoluble components from the slurry to obtain a de-ashed coal extract, wherein the coal extract is suitable for downstream processing".

At that time, the prospective assignee of rights was one of WVU's technology licensee's; and, we decided to wait to see if the application would be approved before submitting report of the technology to the West Virginia Coal Association.

As it happens, that application was approved, resulting, just three days ago, in, as excerpted from the initial link in this dispatch, issuance of:

"United States Patent 8,449,632 - Sewage Material in Coal Liquefaction

Sewage material in coal liquefaction - West Virginia University

Date: May 28, 2013

Inventor: Alfred H. Stiller, Morgantown, WV

(WVU Chemical Engineering:: "Alfred H. Stiller; Emeritus Professor, Chemical Engineering; Emeritus Professor, Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources; Dr. Alfred H. Stiller has been a member of the faculty of the Chemical Engineering Department since 1980. His research is primarily in the area of carbon materials from coal and coal conversion. Prior to joining the faculty he worked in the West Virginia Geological Survey. A second area of research involves Acid Mine Drainage and Mine Land Reclamation. Dr. Stiller holds several patents on a variety of technologies and was designated as the State Inventor by the governor.")

Assignee: West Virginia University

Abstract: The present disclosure provides methods and systems for coal liquefaction using a sewage material. A method of obtaining a de-ashed coal extract includes exposing a coal to a sewage material in the presence of a coal-derived solvent to form a slurry, elevating the temperature of the slurry to facilitate liquefying the coal and liberating a volatile matter, and separating the insoluble components from the slurry to obtain a de-ashed coal extract, wherein the coal extract is suitable for downstream processing.

Claims: A method of obtaining a de-ashed coal extract, comprising: exposing a coal to a sewage material in the presence of a coal-derived solvent to form a slurry; elevating the temperature of the slurry to facilitate liquefying the coal and liberating a volatile matter; and separating insoluble components from the slurry to obtain a de-ashed coal extract. 

The method ... wherein water liberated as a result of the elevated temperature is captured and stored. 

The method ... wherein the volatile matter is condensed and recycled. 

The method ... wherein the coal-derived solvent is selected from a group comprising recycled liquefied coal, coal tar distillate, and coal tar pitch. 

The method ...  wherein separating comprises at least one of centrifugation, filtration, decanting, and float separation (and) wherein the temperature is elevated to between 300 and 600 Celsius.

(It is, no doubt, a pretty high temperature process; but, well within the limits for modern, and practiced, chemical manufacturing industrial processes.)

The method ... further comprising agitating the slurry to facilitate liquefying the coal (which) is selected from one or more of a sub-bituminous coal, a bituminous coal, a lignite coal and an anthracite coal. 

The method ... wherein the sewage material is lignin-containing sewage sludge.

(Lignin - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia; "Lignin ... is a complex chemical compound most commonly derived from wood, and an integral part of the secondary cell walls of plants and some algae. It is one of the most abundant organic polymers on Earth, exceeded only by cellulose, employing 30% of non-fossil organic carbon, and constituting from a quarter to a third of the dry mass of wood."

We can't at this time document it, but, our memory is, that, in an earlier report from another source, we demonstrated that lignin for some reason helps to promote, or serves to facilitate, the hydrogenation and liquefaction of Coal.)

Background and Field: The present invention relates to coal-to-liquid technology, and specifically to a system and method for liquefying coal using solvents that hydrogenate under mild conditions. 

Coal-to-liquid technology refers to chemical processes that convert solid coal into liquid fuels and chemicals. The hydrogen to carbon ratio (H/C, molar) of coal is about 0.8 while that of liquid fuels is about 2.0. The main functions of the coal-to-liquid processes are breakage of the coal's molecular size and addition of hydrogen into coal, or in other words, destructive hydrogenation of coal. These processes are generally termed as coal liquefaction. 

Coal liquefaction may occur by two different pathways: indirect liquefaction and direct liquefaction.

The indirect method converts coal to hydrogen and carbon monoxide, and syngas by reacting coal with steam at high temperatures in an oxygen-starved combustion process.

(The archetypal example of the above is the Fischer-Tropsch process, as seen in:

Fischer–Tropsch process - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia; "The Fischer–Tropsch process, or Fischer–Tropsch synthesis, is a collection of chemical reactions that converts a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen into liquid hydrocarbons. It was first developed by Franz Fischer and Hans Tropsch (in Germany) in 1925. The process ... produces a synthetic lubrication oil and synthetic fuel, typically from coal".)

Direct liquefaction includes reaction of coal with hydrogen in a manner that coal becomes liquid. However, direct coal liquefaction has been historically carried out with hydrogen gas, which requires high temperature and pressure. In an example, direct coal liquefaction may involve temperatures in excess of 450 C and 2000 psig pressure.

(One of the earliest examples of the above would be the "Bergius" process, as seen in:

Bergius process - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia; "The Bergius Process is a method of production of liquid hydrocarbons for use as synthetic fuel by hydrogenation of high-volatile bituminous coal at high temperature and pressure"; and:

Friedrich Bergius - Biography of Friedrich Bergius; "Friedrich Bergius was a German chemist and Nobel laureate. Bergius developed a method to hydrogenate coal dust under high pressure to create gasoline and lubricating oils known as the Bergius process"; and:

West Virginia Coal Association | Bergius 1928 Coal Liquefaction | Research & Development; concerning: "United States 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.In liquefying coal by hydrogenation under great pressure and at elevated temperatures (for instance by means of the Bergin-process) large quantities of hydrogen are necessary for the hydrogenation as well as large quantities of oil for transforming the pulverized coal into a paste and for its own hydrogenation"; and:

West Virginia Coal Association | CoalTL Wins Nobel Prize - in 1931 | Research & Development.) 

Tetralin has been used as a donor solvent. However, a large overpressure of hydrogen and high temperature is needed to transfer the hydrogen from the gas phase to naphthalene, which is produced when tetralin is dehydrogenated as it transfers hydrogen to coal molecules. Thus, in situ re-hydrogenation during liquefaction can be rather costly.

(See, for example:

West Virginia Coal Association | WVU Hydrogenates Coal Tar | Research & Development; concerning: "Hydrogenation of Naphthalene and Coal Tar Distillate over Ni/Mo/Al2O3 Catalyst; Abhijit Bhagavatula; Thesis submitted to the College of Engineering and Mineral Resources at West Virginia University in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science in Chemical Engineering. John W. Zondlo, Ph.D., Chair; Elliot B. Kennel, M.S; Alfred H. Stiller, Ph.D; Department of Chemical Engineering; Morgantown, West Virginia. 2009. Abstract: The hydrogenation of naphthalene and coal-tar distillates has been carried out in a Trickle Bed Reactor, in which the liquid is allowed to flow through the catalyst bed in the presence of hydrogen. The operating conditions employed for the hydrogenation of naphthalene (were varied, and the results monitored, and a) unique peak for naphthalene was observed ... (as was) the peak for the hydrogenated product, tetralin (1,2,3,4 Tetrahydronaphthalene). Therefore, the production of liquid fuel from solid coal is a major area of research. Direct liquefaction, the direct reaction between coal and hydrogen, involves the conversion of coal to refinable crude hydrocarbons, from which liquid fuels such as gasoline, diesel, kerosene, etc., can be produced".)

In view of the limitations discussed above, there exists a need for a method of coal liquefaction utilizing an inexpensively produced, effective hydrogen donor solvent to digest coal.

Summary: In an aspect, the present invention provides methods and systems for inexpensively producing an effective solvent to digest coal. Alternatively, the methods and systems may enhance the dissolution ability of heavy aromatic oils by the addition of a hydrogenated liquid.

In an embodiment, the hydrogenated liquid may be partially or fully hydrogenated vegetable oil.

(Note the additional, potential route of Carbon recycling via use of "hydrogenated vegetable oil":

Vegetable oil - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia; "Unsaturated vegetable oils can be transformed through partial or complete "hydrogenation" into oils of higher melting point. The hydrogenation process involves "sparging" the oil at high temperature and pressure with hydrogen in the presence of a catalyst, typically a powdered nickel compound."

And, as seen in:

West Virginia Coal Association | Panasonic Sunshine Extracts Even More Hydrogen from H2O | Research & Development; concerning: "United States Patent Application 20130075250 - Hydrogen Production Device; 2013; Assignee: Panasonic Corporation, (Japan); The present invention relates to a hydrogen production device for producing hydrogen through decomposition of water in a cell by irradiating an electrode including at least a photocatalytic semiconductor with light. (Hydrogen) production using a photocatalyst is a system for producing hydrogen directly from water and sunlight, and can convert the solar energy effectively into hydrogen energy";

getting the Hydrogen needed to hydrogenate the "vegetable oil", and, thence, as per the process of our subject, Coal and "lignin-containing sewage sludge" is becoming a more attractive proposition, which can be accomplished via employment of freely-available environmental energy.)

In an aspect, a method of obtaining a de-ashed coal extract includes exposing a coal to a hydrogenated vegetable oil in the presence of a coal-derived solvent to form a slurry, elevating the temperature of the slurry to facilitate liquefying the coal and liberating a volatile matter, and separating the insoluble components from the slurry to obtain a de-ashed coal extract, wherein the coal extract is suitable for downstream processing.

The coal-derived solvent may be selected from a group comprising recycled liquefied coal, coal tar distillate, and coal tar pitch. ... The hydrogenated vegetable oil may be at least one of soybean oil, peanut oil, canola oil, olive oil, other vegetable oil or combination of at least two of these oils.

The coal may be selected from one or more of a sub-bituminous coal, lignite coal and an anthracite coal.

The method may further include heating the insoluble components to liberate a volatile matter and an entrained solvent, blending the insoluble components with a calcareous material and roasting the blend in a kiln at a temperature greater than 1000 degrees Celsius to obtain a clinker, and grinding the clinker to obtain a cement.

The method may further include distilling the coal extract under vacuum to obtain a mesophase pitch with a softening point in the range of 25 degrees Celsius to 160 degrees Celsius, wherein the mesophase pitch can be coked to obtain an anisotropic coke. The method may further include coking the pitch to obtain a coke. The coke may be at least one of an anisotropic coke, a metallurgical coke, a graphite coke, an anode coke, and a needle coke. The method may further include air blowing the pitch to crosslink molecules in the pitch, the air blowing of synthetic pitch used for at least modifying a softening point and increasing coke yield. 

In an aspect, a method of obtaining a de-ashed coal extract may include exposing a coal to a petroleum crude to form a slurry, elevating the temperature of the slurry to facilitate liquefying the coal and liberating a volatile matter, and separating the insoluble components from the slurry to obtain a de-ashed coal extract, wherein the coal extract is suitable for downstream processing. Petroleum crude may be at least one of crude bitumen, oil sands crude and liquids containing at least 20% of oil sands crude.

The de-ashed coal extract may be added to a pipeline of petroleum crude for delivery to a petroleum refinery. 

In an aspect, a method of obtaining a de-ashed coal extract may include exposing a coal to a rubber material in the presence of a coal-derived solvent to form a slurry, elevating the temperature of the slurry to facilitate liquefying the coal and liberating a volatile matter, and separating the insoluble components from the slurry to obtain a de-ashed coal extract, wherein the coal extract is suitable for downstream processing. The rubber material may be from a rubber tire.

(There might be more on the way from WVU concerning the above-specified consumption of scrapped auto tires in a Coal liquefaction process. Dr. Stiller has another patent application pending, "US Patent Application 20120091043 - Rubber Material in Coal Liquefaction; April 19, 2012", which we were holding fire on reporting for the same reasons outlined above. But, as we previously reported, via, for example:

West Virginia Coal Association | WVU Improves CTLYield with Waste Tires | Research & Development; concerning: "Effect of process conditions on co-liquefaction kinetics of waste tire and coal; Ramesh K. Sharma, (et. al.);

West Virginia University"; and:

West Virginia Coal Association | Japan Improves CoalTl with Waste Tires | Research & Development; concerning: "Additive Effect of Waste Tire on the Hydrogenolysis Reaction of Coal Liquefaction Residue; Nihon University, Japan; 2006; American Chemical Society";

such potentials have been already been noted and examined.) 

In an aspect, a method of obtaining a de-ashed coal extract may include exposing a coal to a sewage material in the presence of a coal-derived solvent to form a slurry, elevating the temperature of the slurry to facilitate liquefying the coal and liberating a volatile matter, and separating the insoluble components from the slurry to obtain a de-ashed coal extract, wherein the coal extract is suitable for downstream processing. 

In an aspect, a method of obtaining a cement by-product of coal liquefaction may include exposing a coal to a hydrogenated vegetable oil in the presence of a coal-derived solvent to form a slurry, elevating the temperature of the slurry to facilitate liquefying the coal and liberating a volatile matter, separating the insoluble components from the slurry, heating the insoluble components to liberate a volatile matter and an entrained solvent, blending the insoluble components with a calcareous material and roasting the blend in a kiln at a temperature greater than 1000 degrees Celsius to obtain a clinker, and grinding the clinker to obtain a cement.

(With regards to the above, interestingly enough, see:

West Virginia Coal Association | WVU & Canada Cement from Coal Liquefaction Residues | Research & Development; concerning: "US Patent Application 20120090510 - Forming Cement as a By-Product of Coal Liquefaction; 2012; Inventor: Alfred H. Stiller, Morgantown, WV".)

In an aspect, a modular coal liquefaction system may include a reactor for exposing a coal to a hydrogenated vegetable oil in the presence of a coal-derived solvent to form a slurry, a heater that elevates the temperature of the slurry in the reactor to facilitate liquefying the coal and liberating a volatile matter, and a centrifuge that separates the insoluble components from the slurry to obtain a de-ashed coal extract, wherein the coal extract is suitable for downstream processing, wherein the reactor, heater, and centrifuge are adapted to be modular. The system may further include a distillation column that distills the de-ashed coal extract to obtain a pitch. The system may further include a coker that cokes at least one of the de-ashed coal extract and the pitch to obtain a coke. The system may be adapted to be modularly disposed on a rail car. The system may be adapted to be modularly disposed on a semi-truck trailer.
In another aspect of the invention, the methods and systems may produce a slurry of coal liquids and undissolved coal particles.

The slurry may be ... upgraded to produce lighter hydrocarbon synthetic crude for fuels and chemicals."

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We don't want to dilute the importance or significance of our subject herein, West Virginia University's "United States Patent 8,449,632 - Sewage Material in Coal Liquefaction", by making more comments than we already have. But, we must summarize, that:

We have herein official confirmation and affirmation by United States Government technical experts of a technology developed by one of US Coal Country's flagship institutions of higher learning, wherein:

Coal can be directly and efficiently converted into "hydrocarbon synthetic crude for fuels", which can "be added to a pipeline of petroleum crude for delivery to a petroleum refinery". .

And, that conversion of Coal into "synthetic crude" enables the productive consumption and use of noxious, though Carbon-recycling and renewable wastes, "sewage sludge", along with Carbon-recycling and renewable agricultural products, "vegetable oil", with all of the implications for further economic development and sustainability and environmental improvement such potentials entail.

If all of THAT isn't, for whatever unfathomable reason, "news" worthy of public dissemination in West Virginia and the rest of United States Coal Country, then that, in and of itself, is news - news worthy of investigation as to why the West Virginia public isn't privileged enough to be told that their namesake University has developed technology wherein their key, core natural resource, Coal, along with the products of their farms and fields, can be directly converted into the sorts of things that many of them have, no doubt, sent their patriotic sons and daughters off to fight in recent years in the Persian Gulf and the Middle East to ensure our supply of; the sorts of things we have, for decades, been paying our hard-earned American dollars into the treasuries of largely-unfriendly alien nations to keep ourselves supplied with in the here and now.

West Virginia University knows how to convert Coal and Carbon-recycling wastes into Petroleum.

And, it is time the West Virginia public was told all about it.

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