Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Coal-To-Liquids: Not So Fast

The coal rush slowed yesterday when the company seeking to turn coal into diesel fuel at a plant in East Dubuque shelved the proposal.

Getting auto fuel from coal basically doubles the global warming pollution that comes out of a car.

Sierra Club fought the proposal, primarily because the company, Rentech, made no commitments to deal with their global warming pollution.

According to Verena Owen, chair of the Sierra Club's Illinois Clean Energy Campaign:

"Over 30 Sierra Club volunteers from Iowa and Illinois showed up and spoke up at the hearing for the Rentech facility, facing 200 some Rentech supporters. We have been working with the NRDC office in Chicago to develop comments. Rentech knows we are serious.

It is noteworthy that Rentech pulled out not only over carbon regulation uncertainty but also because of economic factors. It is clear that CTL will need substantial state and federal financing in order to get off the ground, even in Mississippi. We will have to work on not giving hand-outs to this new market for dirty coal. We can't drill or mine ourselves out of global warming."


Iredeu,  6:44 AM  

Saying that auto fuel from coal basically doubles the global warming pollution that comes out of a car is like saying that having water taps in your kitchen is responsible for flooding of the floors. For the water we have sinks and wash basins, for the CO2 we have CO2 sequestering, a porven and used method of taking care of the problem. Blogs are responsible if they repeat the lies that are being spred without checking.

george,  10:01 AM  

Before I saw the comment above, I was curious about that blurb as well. Jack, can you post a link to some details?

Jack Darin 1:01 PM  

Carbon capture MIGHT work, we don't know. In any case, Rentech wasn't committed to doing it.

Here's what the Natural Resources Defense Council says:

"The total well-to-wheels emission rate for
conventional petroleum-derived fuel is about 27
pounds of CO2 per gallon of fuel. If the CO2
from the liquid coal plant is released into the
atmosphere, based on available information about
liquid coal plants being proposed, the total well-
to-wheels CO2 emissions from coal-derived fuel
would be about 50 pounds of CO2 per gallon—
nearly twice as high.

If the CO2 from liquid coal plants is captured
instead of being released into the atmosphere, then
well-to-wheels CO2 emissions would be reduced
some but would still be higher than emissions
from today’s crude oil system. Even capturing 90
percent of the emissions from liquid coal plants
leaves emissions at levels somewhat higher than
those from petroleum production and refining;
emissions from the vehicle using the coal-derived
liquid fuels are equivalent to those from a gasoline
vehicle. As a result, with CO2 capture well-to-
wheels emissions from coal-derived liquids fuels
would be 8 percent higher than for petroleum."

Anonymous,  10:47 AM  

8% is manageable; with improved vehicle emissions, we could break even. I also think the US could do a better job by switching more vehicles from gasoline to low-sulfur diesel (with engine technology taking advantage of the new diesel fuel regulations), for fuel economy as well as environmental reasons.

Will,  12:21 AM  

Iredeu, would you mind telling us where carbon sequestration is proven and widely used? It isn't anywhere in the US. Tell us about a few plants that are beyond the experimental stage.

sfj4076,  10:34 AM  

One example would be the great plains gasification facility in North Dakota. There they are taking the process CO2, and pipeing it several hundered miles for sequestration in Canada. That is around a million Tons Per Year of CO2 if memory serves.

Wikipedia sez:
As of 2007, four industrial-scale storage projects are in operation. Sleipner [4] is the oldest project (1996) and is located in the North Sea where Norway's StatoilHydro strips carbon dioxide from natural gas with amine solvents and disposes of this carbon dioxide in a deep saline aquifer. The carbon dioxide is a waste product of the field's natural gas production and the gas contains more (9% CO2) than is allowed into the natural gas distribution network. Storing it underground avoids this problem and saves Statoil hundreds of millions of euro in avoided carbon taxes. Since 1996, Sleipner has stored about one million tonnes CO2 a year. A second project in the Snøhvit gas field in the Barents Sea stores 700,000 tonnes per year. [9]

The Weyburn project Weyburn is currently the world's largest carbon capture and storage project.[10] Started in 2000, Weyburn is located on an oil reservoir discovered in 1954 in Weyburn, southeastern Saskatchewan, Canada. The CO2 for this project is captured at the Great Plains Coal Gasification plant in Beulah, North Dakota which has produced methane from coal for more than 30 years. At Weyburn, the CO2 will also be used for enhanced oil recovery with an injection rate of about 1.5 million tonnes per year. The first phase finished in 2004, and demonstrated that CO2 can be stored underground at the site safely and indefinitely. The second phase, expected to last until 2009, is investigating how the technology can be expanded on a larger scale.[11]

The fourth site is In Salah, which like Sleipner and Snøhvit is a natural gas reservoir located in In Salah, Algeria. The CO2 will be separated from the natural gas and re-injected into the subsurface at a rate of about 1.2 million tonnes per year.

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