Office of Coal Research Continues Liquid Extraction Projects
- George Fumich Jr. (Office Of Coal Research, Dept. Of Interior)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- August 1966
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 939 - 943
- 1966. Society of Petroleum Engineers
- 1.6 Drilling Operations, 4.2 Pipelines, Flowlines and Risers, 4.3.4 Scale, 4.6 Natural Gas, 4.1.5 Processing Equipment, 4.2.3 Materials and Corrosion
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The Office of Coal Research has several active contracts for projects designed to develop competitive processes to convert coal into liquid and gas fuels- usually gasoline and pipe-line-quality gas. A general description of the various processes is presented with some comparison of the means of supplying hydrogen, results of experimental programs to date and future plans and expectations. Among the projects discussed are the pipeline gas programs being conducted by the institute of Gas Technology, Consolidation Coal Co., Bituminous Coal Research, Inc. and The M. W. Kellogg Co., as well as the liquid fuel programs conducted by the FMC Corp., Consolidation Coal Co., the Atlantic Richfield Co. and Hydrocarbon Research, Inc.
Coal conversion is a large subject and to place the present activities in proper perspective, some of the historical background is necessary before describing the work now being done by the Office of Coal Research (OCR). There is presently much interest in this subject, both within and without the coal industry. Coal has been completely replaced by hydrocarbons from wells in two of its traditional major markets-as railroad locomotive fuel and as the source of gas. In addition, the other major fuel markets (automobiles and aircraft) have always been supplied by petroleum. The total U.S. demand for petroleum products is running around 3 1/2 billion bbl a year. By 1980, it is expected to be 6 to 8 billion bbl, and by the year 2000 it could possibly be 12 to 15 billion bbl a year. Corresponding figures for natural gas are: present, 16 trillion cu ft; 1980, 25 trillion cu ft; and 2000, 35 trillion cu ft. Thus, it is apparent that if coal-derived liquid fuels and pipeline-quality gas were available at commercially competitive prices, they could share in a large and growing market with a resulting large increase in coal consumption. In the long run, as indicated by the figures just noted, it is not apparent that the availability of liquid fuels and gas from coal would have any deleterious effect on the oil and gas industry as we know it today. Rather, it would be the other way around. Coal could be a boon to the industry in helping it to supply the ever-increasing demand for domestic and industrial heating gas, gasoline, diesel fuel, LPG and similar products at lower cost than otherwise. There are ample signs that the large oil and gas companies recognize this and many are extending their bases so as to have sources of raw materials other than petroleum. The projects being supported by OCR to produce liquids from coal are generally designed to produce a refinery feed stock which is then processed in standard oil refinery equipment to salable end products. Thus, we expect that eventually the liquid fuel industry will have another choice in seeking new sources of raw materials. For instance, it may be cheaper to exploit the available coal reserves of Appalachia, the Midwest, the South and the immense Western deposits than to drill new wells in other areas at great difficulty and expense and this latter is already being done.
Our gas projects are designed to produce a pipeline-quality product which will be interchangeable with natural gas. it will flow through the same pipelines, where they pass near coal fields, and be distributed in the same systems. Thus, it will supplement and strengthen the gas industry. The original impetus for the large-scale production of gasoline from coal was wartime necessity. During the war the Germans, with their mechanized war machine, were lacking in petroleum resources. This had been foreseen, and for many years they had been developing processes for producing liquids (aviation and motor gasoline, diesel fuel and lubricants) from coal. To produce the analogs of petroleum-derived liquids from coal. it is necessary to add hydrogen. Thus. all processes were, and are, hydro-genation processes.
A process which had much early development, although not the first discovered, was Fischer-Tropsch synthesis-essentially the hydrogenation of carbon monoxide. In 1923 Fischer and Tropsch, in the Ruhr, described a catalytic reaction of hydrogen and carbon monoxide gases, at relatively low temperatures and pressures, which produced an oily liquid. After much further research, largely on catalysts. petroleum-type hydrocarbons were produced and some commercial-scale operations were started in Germany during the 1930's Nevertheless, because of complicated equipment needed to handle and control the catalytic reaction and difficulties with the catalyst itself, plus cost of the synthesis gas, it was not the major liquid fuel source in wartime Germany.
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