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Coal to Liquid Fuels (merged)

Discussions of conventional and alternative energy production technologies.

is coal liquefaction a net energy loser?

Unread postby mmm » Sat 19 Mar 2005, 11:15:37

If so, why is it currently being pursued in South Africa? And didn't Nazi Germany use it with some success? And isn't China talking about using it?
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Unread postby Aaron » Sat 19 Mar 2005, 11:54:22

Not at all.

It's just much less efficient than conventional oil.
The problem is, of course, that not only is economics bankrupt, but it has always been nothing more than politics in disguise... economics is a form of brain damage.

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Unread postby Kingcoal » Sat 19 Mar 2005, 12:26:38

In Pennsylvania they are building a coal to diesel plant Ultra clean fuels that will use the mountains of waste coal that are left over from the coal age. In this case, it probably makes sense because the coal isn't being used for anything else.
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Unread postby Trab » Sat 19 Mar 2005, 13:17:12

The Nazis used Coal Liquification in WWII toward the end of the war simply because they had been cut off from all of their other oil supplies, and that's the only way they could power their tanks and other mechanized war machines.

It was more of a desperation measure than anything else.
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Unread postby BW3 » Sat 19 Mar 2005, 14:19:43

Google "sasol china".

Two plants, $6 billion, 60,000,000 tons of oil per year.
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My scenario...

Unread postby Lucas » Tue 12 Apr 2005, 12:28:59

Hello all

I'm new here, but not new to the topic. I'm a junior in highschool and I'm really coming down to the wire on a paper about the possible alternatives to conventional oil. I've basically ruled out high production volume from heavy oil, tar sands, and oil shale b/c of various constraints, but I'm having a hard time finding good information on what the coal/gas-to-liquids is likely to do in the next 20 years or so. This is what I think might happen, but I don't know if I'm right:

1) Prices will soar, and demand will have to be cut.
2) Investors will kick of conversion technologies, but it will take time for them to come on line. In the mean time, oil crisis!
3) Since gas-to-liquids (GTL) is cheaper to build, that will happen first
4) Coal-to-liquids (CTL) will come along later (10 yr or so), as the GTL industry proves some of the relevant technology, and begins to hit max production
5)PRices will still be high, and the wastefulness of CTL will bring about pressure to develop renewable alternatives.

How does that sound?
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starrotor

Unread postby t » Wed 13 Apr 2005, 07:46:06

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Unread postby Doly » Wed 13 Apr 2005, 08:01:11

Lucas, your scenario sounds about correct. What is exactly the cost of coal-to-liquids compared with oil nowadays?
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Unread postby Andy » Wed 13 Apr 2005, 12:03:13

Lucas,

Sounds like the route we are likely to take in addition to nukes all to our collective environmental detriment.
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Fischer Tropsch

Unread postby ehv_nl » Wed 27 Apr 2005, 10:44:30

I seem to have a little trouble finding numbers on how many barrels of oil can be produced from a ton of coal using the Fischer Tropsch process, and at what cost. Can someone give me an insight in these numbers?

I heard that the world has currently a 250 years worth of coal supply, and I read somewhere (I forgot where, will check) that a years supply is worth 10 million barrels of oil, which would mean if we would try to make all the current demand of oil from coal that the total reserves of coal would be worth 250/9 = 27.7777 years. I would like to see more specific numbers, though.
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Re: Cost/Efficiency/Sources

Unread postby Ranglepung » Thu 19 May 2005, 13:18:24

Guest LC wrote:YOu could put windmills in the barren windswept Mid-West at 1000 / sq mile. The plains have about 2 million square miles. So there's ample room. Not all great wind sites, but ample room. The problem is shipping it to Chicago/St. Louis/ etc. There aren't any transmission lines near there. But they could be built.


You need about 1 km² pr 20 MW of available electricity from windmills.
They can't stand so close, because they interfere with eachother then.

So with the above figure of 905 000 MW, you need an area of roughly 42 000 km². That's about the size of Denmark.
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Unread postby nero » Fri 27 May 2005, 14:24:54

Here is a pretty detailed presentation on the economics of a coal to liquids plant for Wyoming. There is just way too much info to take in. At current prices it would have a internal rate of return of about 75%. One key draw back I think is the sensitivity it has to the price of coal. It's base case assumes $5/ton. It is still profitable at $10/ton but the IRR is only marginal. The thing is the current price of coal in the PRB is about $8/ton, and the spread between the PRB and Appalachia is currently huge, so it is likely that Wyoming coal could increase as the transportation bottlenecks are removed. One Item I did find interesting is that they found it makes economic sense to combine a CTL plant with an ammonium nitrate plant.

Rentech presentation April 14 2005

Coal prices
Biofuels: The "What else we got to burn?" answer to peak oil.
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Unread postby Devilboy » Fri 27 May 2005, 23:21:06

[quote="nero"]One Item I did find interesting is that they found it makes economic sense to combine a CTL plant with an ammonium nitrate plant.
[quote]

I visited the Sasol plant a few years back. They explained that the main purpose of the plant was to create diesel, but in the process you get different types of 'waste' chemicals. E.g. ammonia. So instead of dumping it, it only makes sense to feed it to another plant to make something useful out of that. And that process has waste of it's own and so your diesel plant turns into quite a big facility that creates maybe 20 different useful chemicals, all sold for profit.

Sasol treats each plant as a seperate entity that must buy the chemicals from the other entities - and they all have to make money. Very interesting stuff.
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Australians making gasoline from coal?

Unread postby ohanian » Sun 29 May 2005, 06:24:32

V.B. Price: A slick slope

Unending oil binge, economic hubris may doom us yet

By V.B. Price / Tribune Columnist
May 28, 2005

Let's say we really are facing what urban critic James Howard Kunstler calls "The Long Emergency," when plentiful oil begins to dwindle and prices go beyond the bounds of wanton and undisciplined spending that booming growth requires.

...

We know Australians have been making gasoline from coal since World War II and that shale oil in vast quantities exists in the Green River Valley of Wyoming.



What did he just said? Australian making gasoline from coal!!!! You got to be kidding me!

First. It's petrol not gasoline. Only Americans call it gasoline.

Second. Australians making petrol from coal is news to me. I think the author is bullshitting all of us.
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Unread postby Antimatter » Mon 30 May 2005, 00:12:35

We use amazing new technology to create petrol from crude oil :razz:
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Unread postby biggav » Tue 31 May 2005, 10:12:24

I suspect the author meant south africa rather than Australia (though I'm not sure if they still do it - it was more an apartheid era necessity due to difficulties in getting hold of oil).
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Unread postby Kingcoal » Tue 31 May 2005, 10:24:38

What's so amazing about this? It's been going on since WW2 when the Nazis were doing it. Read up on some of the articles here regarding shale oil, coal to gas, etc.
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Unread postby Dan1195 » Wed 01 Jun 2005, 21:21:23

I have been wondering, since I believe CTL is about the only halfway feasible source as a replacement for oil in the medium term, about the max rate of production and/or rate of increase in production that could be achieved when "push comes to shove" as it were. For purpose of this discussion I am ignoring potential eviro impacts and how expensive it would be.

I am assuming that since the US has large coal reserves production could be ramped up. I am unclear at what rate though (i.e could it replace the decline in oil production after peak). This rate of increase and the max. production rate surely is not representative of a hubbert curve as it relates to reserves, since it has to be mined. There may be 100+ years ot coal reserves left, but your problebly not going to get 20 mbd of liquid out. Anyone seen any estimate on this?
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Unread postby ubercrap » Tue 07 Jun 2005, 23:30:29

Dan1195 wrote:I have been wondering, since I believe CTL is about the only halfway feasible source as a replacement for oil in the medium term, about the max rate of production and/or rate of increase in production that could be achieved when "push comes to shove" as it were. For purpose of this discussion I am ignoring potential eviro impacts and how expensive it would be.

I am assuming that since the US has large coal reserves production could be ramped up. I am unclear at what rate though (i.e could it replace the decline in oil production after peak). This rate of increase and the max. production rate surely is not representative of a hubbert curve as it relates to reserves, since it has to be mined. There may be 100+ years ot coal reserves left, but your problebly not going to get 20 mbd of liquid out. Anyone seen any estimate on this?


Yes,excluding environmental concern for the moment, I also am interested in what rate could be achieved realistically, as I keep obsessing over and stressing rate. This is one of the most important components in my opinion. It doesn't matter how many trillions of whatevers of pseudo-oil treacle you have in the ground somewhere, if the rate of extraction/processing is limited, it doesn't really change peak oil outlook very much. Of course, realistic ramping up times might change in a big hurry under the right conditions, but just as easily, ramping up may prove virtually impossible if we are trying to increase production suddenly, just when we are being hit the hardest economically.
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Synthetic oil

Unread postby JohnDenver » Tue 28 Jun 2005, 23:18:37

Coal liquefaction is going to play a big role on the downslope, so let's note a few things about it:

1) The sound bite that "oil is a feedstock with no substitutes" is a myth. All petrochemicals can be made from liquefied coal, and coal gas (syn gas). There is no significant difference in chemistry between natural crude oil and synthetic crude produced from coal (except that synthetic crude is cleaner). Detergents, pesticides, fertilizer, plastics, synthetic fibers and synthetic rubber can all be made from coal. Also, coal can be profitably liquefied in the U.S. today, provided that the price of crude oil stays above $35/bbl.

2) Clearly, these new synthetic liquids are going to be called "oil". They are chemically identical to oil products, and they do the same jobs as oil products. They will also be mixed together with oil products in the refining step. It's reallly pointless to separate the two.
This means that coal reserves are in fact oil reserves. Total recoverable coal reserves in the U.S. are estimated at about 250 billion short tons. At 20,754,000 btus/short ton, the U.S. has 5.2 x 10^18 btus of recoverable coal reserves. The thermal efficiency of coal liquefaction is about 65%. So if we liquefy the coal reserves of the U.S., we get 3.4 x 10^18 btus of synthetic oil. There are about 5.8 x 10^6 btus in a barrel of oil, so total reserves of oil located in coal reserves in the U.S. is roughly 5.9 x 10^11 barrels = 590 giga barrels. That's about 80 years of oil at current U.S. consumption rates of 20 mbd.
The point is not that all of that coal will be liquefied. However, a substantial portion of it will be, and that portion needs to be reclassified as "new oil".
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