Governor Brian Schweitzer
What are synthetic fuels?
Synthetic fuel, also known as synfuel or Fischer-Tropsch liquids, is fuel such as diesel and jet fuel that is made from coal, natural gas or biomass, instead of oil. These are clean--burning, high-performing fuels that run in existing engines.
What is coal gasification? What is IGCC?
Unlike conventional coal burning plants that ignite the coal and send pollutants up a smokestack and into the air, synfuel plants gasify coal. This conversion takes place in a contained reaction and creates syngas, a mixture of gases which then can be made into liquid fuel. As an alternative to liquid fuel production, syngas can be upgraded to natural gas and sold on the market or can be used directly as fuel for a power plant. Plants using syngas are known as Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) plants and are among the cleanest types of electricity generators.
Why are synfuels cleaner than traditional fuels?
When coal is gasified, rather than burned as at conventional coal plants, impurities such as sulfur and mercury can be stripped out of the gas stream, instead of otherwise being emitted into the air. The resulting fuels burn virtually free of these pollutants. Sulfur-free fuel means less smog and acid rain, among many other benefits.
What is Carbon Sequestration?
In addition to removing pollutants such as mercury and sulfur, the gasification process allows carbon dioxide (CO2), the leading global warming agent, to be removed with little difficulty from the waste stream. Once separated, the CO2 can be stored permanently underground, buried deep in the earth and stored much like it was stored as coal. This is known as "carbon capture and sequestration" and is strongly supported by leading environmental scientists and global warming experts. In fact, there is a market for injecting carbon dioxide underground. Oil fields use CO2 to revive depleted oil wells, pumping the gas under pressure deep into oil-bearing formations, to force otherwise irretrievable oil to the wellhead. This process, known as enhanced oil recovery (EOR), causes the CO2 to remain deep in the ground and eventually react and stabilize with the rock and water in the formation.
Is carbon sequestration practiced anywhere today?
Yes. The closest location is Beulah, North Dakota, at the
Dakota Gasification Plant the largest gasifier in
With a demonstrated reserve base of 120 billion tons,
Where is synthetic fuel made today?
How would the military benefit from synfuel?
The Office of the Secretary of Defense recently issued a Clean Fuels Initiative proposal to run all battlefield engines on a synthetic fuel. Though its fulfillment may be many years away, this strategy would enable the military to 1) avoid buying oil from unstable regimes that are known sponsors of terror, 2) mitigate supply chain vulnerabilities to events like Gulf Coast hurricanes, 3) meet clean air requirements in European countries where we have airbases, and 4) simplify the fueling of battlefield equipment that presently run on multiple fuels.
Why haven't synfuels been
They have. In fact, the
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. Looking to the future, it can be used to produce hydrogen for use in fuel cells. Gasification also can be used for industrial products such as naphtha, chemicals, waxes for cosmetics, fertilizers, and carbon dioxide for enhanced oil recovery.
Is synthetic fuel cost effective?
Yes. The cost of making a barrel of synthetic fuel is estimated to be around $55, including the sizeable infrastructure investments and the labor force necessary to operate the plant. At the current and projected price of oil, production should be a cost effective enterprise. Key economic incentives in the recently enacted federal Energy Bill, such as 80% loan guarantees for certain coal liquefaction projects, reduce the economic uncertainty of bringing this technology up to commercial scale.
How long will it take for
There are already a number of small plants being designed