Rather than ANWR
- From: "Capri" <capri142@xxxxxxx>
- Date: 28 Nov 2005 07:20:38 -0800
Everybobey but the eco=freaks who hate the thought of ANY oil shoul get
Montana is actively pursuing development of coal-to-liquids technology
as a means of converting our significant coal reserves into synthetic
gasoline and other fuels. Synthetic versions of petroleum fuels have
been made for almost a century, and this technology offers great
promise for reducing American dependence on foreign oil. Here are
answers to some basic questions about coal-to-liquids technology.
What is synthetic fuel?
Synthetic fuels, also known as synfuel or Fischer-Tropsch liquids, are
fuels such as gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel, that are made
synthetically-that is, from coal or natural gas instead of oil. These
are clean-burning, high-performing fuels that require no engine
At 120 billion tons, Montana's coal is, in liquid terms, one quarter
the size of the entire Middle East oil reserve, enough fuel to power
every American car for decades. If even a fraction of these reserves
were responsibly developed and converted to fuel we could greatly
reduce the oil we now import from foreign regimes and offer our
military, the largest consumer of foreign oil, a domestic alternative.
Where is synthetic fuel made today?
South Africa is the leading producer, making about 200,000 barrels of
gasoline and diesel a day from coal. A number of other countries,
including Qatar, Malaysia and China, are investing in synfuel
production in response to increased global demand for oil and other
energy. Synfuels have been in use for many decades. Notoriously, in the
1940s Germany powered most of its war effort using coal-based diesel.
How would the military benefit from synfuel?
The Office of the Secretary of Defense recently issued a Clean Fuels
Initiative, a proposal to run all battlefield machinery on a single
synthetic fuel. This would enable the military to avoid buying oil from
unstable regimes that are known sponsors of terror, and would reduce
the military's supply chain vulnerabilities such as those now occurring
in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina. As well, being able to run
battlefield equipment on a single fuel, rather than multiple fuels,
would give the military a strong logistical edge.
Why haven't synfuels been pursued in America before?
They have. In fact, the U.S. government was seriously exploring synfuel
as early as 1925. In the 1940s, a Synthetic Liquid Fuels Act passed by
Congress even appropriated over $80 million for research and
production. By the 1950s, America was producing thousands of gallons of
synthetic gasoline a day at a test plant in Missouri. But the discovery
of cheap oil, combined with a lobbying effort by the oil industry,
caused the government to abandon its synfuel research. During the oil
crisis in the late 1970s, the federal government briefly discussed
synfuel production, but abandoned the idea when the price of oil
Why are synfuels cleaner than traditional fuels?
Synthetic fuel technology works by heating coal into gas in a contained
reaction requiring no external energy. This first step is known as coal
gasification, and is used widely around the world to create other forms
of energy and industrial products. The gas is then cleansed of sulfur,
mercury, arsenic and other toxins, as well as greenhouse gasses, and
then distilled into a synthetic form of crude oil which can be refined
on site to create any liquid fuel. The resulting fuels burn
dramatically cleaner than petroleum-based fuels and can help America
Are there other applications of this technology?
In addition to making liquid fuels, coal gasification can be used to
generate electricity with virtually no emissions and, looking toward
the future, can be used to produce hydrogen for use in fuel cells.
Byproducts from the process include industrial materials such as
naptha, waxes for cosmetics, fertilizer, and carbon dioxide for
advanced oil recovery.
Is synthetic fuel cost effective?
Yes. The cost of making a barrel of synethic fuel is approximately $35
a barrel, including the sizeable infrastructure and labor force.
However, important economic factors make production a cost effective
enterprise, including the current price of oil and key economic
incentives in the recently enacted federal Energy Bill, such as 80%
loan guarantees for certain coal liquefaction projects.
How long will it take for America to produce enough synfuel to make a
There are already a number of small plants being designed around
America, but a large-scale national effort must involve the federal
government and would take a number of years. Given South Africa's
success in this field, we should assume that if the federal government
became meaningfully invested in this concept, America could have a
strong synfuel industry by the next decade.