Sunday, March 25, 2012

Massive Global Coal Resource in Demand

Thanks to growing demand for energy in India and China, global demand for coal is increasing. For example:
China's coal consumption, including its growing imports totaled about 3.75 billion tons in 2011. At that rate and for China's estimated 1.33 billion population, this is a consumption rate of 2.8 tons per person a year... _Source
Worldwide, several projects for large scale conversion of coal to gasoline and other liquid fuels are in the works, including two in the US -- in Wyoming and West Virginia. Both of the proposed US plants are under attack from faux environmentalist green groups such as the Sierra club, but the Wyoming plant appears to be making progress against the lefty-Luddite assault:
“We think Wyoming is a pacesetter here,” said Kelly, executive chairman of DKRW Advanced Fuels, which wants to build the $1.7 billion to $2 billion plant to convert coal into gasoline and carbon dioxide for sale, among other products. “This would be the first project like this in the U.S. and really, the West.”

...The company won a critical victory in March 2011 when the Wyoming Supreme Court upheld a state-issued air quality permit for the project and its adjacent mine, despite a Sierra Club challenge. But the plant and similar projects continue to face opposition from the club and other environmental advocacy groups.

...Medicine Bow Fuel and Power, the company’s project subsidiary, has obtained the right to use technology key to the plant’s conversion process. It also has a buyer for both gasoline and carbon dioxide to pump into old fields to boost production.
The DKRW plant will use a General Electric coal gasification technology, which produces a synthetic gas, also known as syngas, and strips it of nearly all sulfur and carbon dioxide. Using a licensed ExxonMobil technology, the syngas is converted into methanol, which is converted into gasoline.

DKRW has also retained CitiBank as adviser in its search for private financing. DKRW has sunk $100 million into the project’s development so far, according to Kelly.
“All that’s a big task, and it takes a long time,” Kelly said. “Those are gigantic things to do and they’re expensive things to do.” _BillingsGazette
The project still faces significant financial obstacles -- primarily due to delays caused by faux environmentalist lawsuits and other ideologically-based red tape.

Another obstacle to standard CTL plant projects in North America is the very cheap price of natural gas there. Some projects are switching from CTL to GTL (gas to liquids) to take advantage of cheap gas prices, and the possibility of a quicker route to production.

A better approach to coal liquefaction (CTL) might be a combined coal and natural gas approach, where natural gas is used as a hydrogen source. At today's natural gas and coal -- compared to oil prices in North America and elsewhere -- such an approach makes sense.

The best approach of all for synthetic liquid fuels production would be the use of nuclear process heat for CTL, GTL, and combined gas and coal liquefaction. The only meaningful resource limits, after all, are those in the human mind.

If we allow the lefty-Luddite dieoff.orgy green mentality of energy starvation to take over modern societies, we will have little to look forward to but increased global poverty, violence, and societal decay.

One way or another, humans will make use of the massive coal resource. It would be best if coal were cleanly converted to liquid fuels or electricity. But if faux environmentalist greens prevent the clean use of coal, coal will be used in dirty ways, using increasingly more primitive and polluting technologies prevalent in the growing third world.

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