Thanks To Gas Turbine World – And Harry Jaeger for pointing out my error

In a post in-or-around May 28th I said that the Airforce was preparing to switch to a synthetic fuel made from coal. I said if done properly that it might not be a bad thing environmentally premised on the fact that the Death Comes From Above crowd was going to fly and going to kill no matter what. I mean it’s hard enough to sell a noncarbon economy without trying to argue for peace and harmony. I am for all of the above, but the Corporate Capitalists are never going to buy peace and harmony – it’s just not their thing. There is nothing good about flying from a global warming point of view. But that is for another post.

Anyway in that post I repeatedly and obnoxiously referred to the process as gasification and it’s not. It’s an entirely different process process using entirely different reagents and at entirely different temperatures. The proper term for that is Coal To Liquids Process(ing)(es) and Harry pointed it out to me. I am soooooo sorry. It has been corrected. I shall never do it again.

For more on this devastating mistake:
and even where to invest if you want to:


But it still stinks, generates huge amount of CO2 and other Sox and Nox gases, and it is from the past not the future. Did I mention that it uses twice as much energy as it produces?




images available from:

Then there is this:

July 09, 2006

First US Coal To Liquid Plant ComingThe New York Times reports on plans by Rentech to build a plant to convert coal to liquid fuel burnable in diesel engines.

Here in East Dubuque, Rentech Inc., a research-and-development company based in Denver, recently bought a plant that has been turning natural gas into fertilizer for forty years. Rentech sees a clear opportunity to do something different because natural gas prices have risen so high. In an important test case for those in the industry, it will take a plunge and revive a technology that exploits America’s cheap, abundant coal and converts it to expensive truck fuel.

“Otherwise, I don’t see us having a future,” John H. Diesch, the manager of the plant, said.

If a large scaling up of coal-to-liquid (CTL) production takes place then an increase in pollution seems likely. Though perhaps advances in conversion technologies and tougher regulations could prevent this. The use of coal to make liquid fuels will increase CO2 emissions since the conversion plants will emit CO2 and of course the liquid fuel will emit CO2 just as conventional diesel fuel does. Those who view rising CO2 emissions with alarm therefore see a shift to CTL as a harmful trend.

And, uniquely in this country, the plant will take coal and produce diesel fuel, which sells for more than $100 a barrel.

The cost to convert the coal is $25 a barrel, the company says, a price that oil seems unlikely to fall to in the near future. So Rentech is discussing a second plant in Natchez, Miss., and participating in a third proposed project in Carbon County in Wyoming.

That sounds very profitable. The longer the price of oil stays high the likelier that capitalists will decide it is worth the risk to build CTL plants. Many are holding back worried that oil prices could tank again as happened in the early 1980s. That price decline drove the Beulah North Dakota Great Plains Synfuels Plant into bankruptcy. Though it was restarted and now produces natural gas from coal profitably. Though the bankruptcy cut the capital cost of operating that plant and so is not a perfect measure of the profitability of processes to convert coal to gas or liquid.

Thanks Harry!

1 thought on “Thanks To Gas Turbine World – And Harry Jaeger for pointing out my error

  1. Will Reynolds wanted to make this comment and could not log on, so I am posting it for him:

    Hi Doug,
    >> I was glad to see your new blog post about coal to liquids.
    >> It doesn’t
    >> make any sense unless your goal is to create more demand
    >> for coal.
    >> But your first post also ignored the impacts of longwall
    >> and mountain
    >> top removal mining methods. That’s still an issue even
    >> if all the
    >> other conditions were met.

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