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Clan Elder 'Keen

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Would be nice to get access to an installation that could make use of the growing piles of (useless) coal that so many of us have. Conversion to Petrochemicals or Fuel is certainly reasonable even with yesterday's technology.








High prices of oil and natural gas are leading to increased interest in "BTU Conversion" technologies such as coal gasification, methanation, liquification, and solidification.


Coal gasification breaks down the coal into its components, usually by subjecting it to high temperature and pressure, using steam and measured amounts of oxygen. This leads to the production of carbon dioxide and oxygen, as well as other gaseous compounds. [6]


In the past, coal was converted to make coal gas, which was piped to customers to burn for illumination, heating, and cooking. At present, the safer natural gas is used instead. South Africa still uses gasification of coal for much of its petrochemical needs.


Gasification is also a possibility for future energy use, as it generally burns hotter and cleaner than conventional coal and can thus spin a more efficient gas turbine rather than a steam turbine. It also makes for the possibility of zero carbon dioxide emissions even though the energy comes from the conversion of carbon to carbon dioxide. This is because gasification produces a much higher concentration of carbon dioxide than direct combustion of coal in air (which is mostly nitrogen). The higher concentrations of carbon dioxide makes carbon capture and storage more economical than it otherwise would be.




Coal can also be converted into liquid fuels like gasoline or diesel by several different processes. The Fischer-Tropsch process of indirect synthesis of liquid hydrocarbons was used in Nazi Germany, and for many years by Sasol in South Africa — in both cases because those regimes were politically isolated and unable to purchase crude oil on the open market. Coal would be gasified to make syngas (a balanced purified mixture of CO and H2 gas) and the syngas condensed using Fischer-Tropsch catalysts to make light hydrocarbons which are further processed into gasoline and diesel. Syngas can also be converted to methanol, which can be used as a fuel, fuel additive, or further processed into gasoline via the Mobil M-gas process.


A direct liquefaction process Bergius process (liquefaction by hydrogenation) is also available but has not been used outside Germany, where such processes were operated both during World War I and World War II. SASOL in South Africa has experimented with direct hydrogenation. Several other direct liquefaction processes have been developed, among these being the SRC-I and SRC-II (Solvent Refined Coal) processes developed by Gulf Oil and implemented as pilot plants in the United States in the 1960's and 1970's.[7]


Yet another process to manufacture liquid hydrocarbons from coal is low temperature carbonization (LTC). Coal is coked at temperatures between 450 and 700 °C compared to 800 to 1000 °C for metallurgical coke. These temperatures optimize the production of coal tars richer in lighter hydrocarbons than normal coal tar. The coal tar is then further processed into fuels. The Karrick process was developed by Lewis C. Karrick, an oil shale technologist at the U.S. Bureau of Mines in the 1920s.[8]


All of these liquid fuel production methods release carbon dioxide (CO2) in the conversion process, far more than is released in the extraction and refinement of liquid fuel production from petroleum. If these methods were adopted to replace declining petroleum supplies carbon dioxide emissions would be greatly increased on a global scale. For future liquefaction projects, Carbon dioxide sequestration is proposed to avoid releasing it into the atmosphere. As CO2 is one of the process streams, sequestration is easier than from flue gases produced in combustion of coal with air, where CO2 is diluted by nitrogen and other gases. Sequestration will, however, add to the cost.


Coal liquefaction is one of the backstop technologies that could potentially limit escalation of oil prices and mitigate the effects of transportation energy shortage under peak oil. This is contingent on liquefaction production capacity becoming large enough to satiate the very large and growing demand for petroleum. Estimates of the cost of producing liquid fuels from coal suggest that domestic U.S. production of fuel from coal becomes cost-competitive with oil priced at around 35 USD per barrel [9], (break-even cost). This price, while above historical averages, is well below current oil prices. This makes coal a viable financial alternative to oil for the time being, although production is not great enough to make synfuels viable on a large scale. [10].


Among commercially mature technologies, advantage for indirect coal liquefaction over direct coal liquefaction are reported by Williams and Larson (2003). Estimates are reported for sites in China where break-even cost for coal liquefaction may be in the range between 25 to 35 USD/barrel of oil.

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Would be nice to get access to an installation that could make use of the growing piles of (useless) coal that so many of us have.  Conversion to Petrochemicals or Fuel is certainly reasonable even with yesterday's technology.


Hmmm ... how about Steam powered starships, fueled by Coal (AKA H.G. Wells and all the other science fiction of a similar nature in the genre and in games)? I can just imagine it .. the MK I Steam Drive, and Mk I Steam Jump Drives, which use or require you to have SynFuel in stock, as made from Coal. And then there would be the 100 cm Spinal Steam Gun, and other lovely such weapons.


Why, if Dr. Emmett Brown can build a steam powered, coal driven flying locamotive time machine, then the esteemed scientists of our advanced races should be able to do something similar, right?



All kidding aside .. Coal is nice for starting colonies and intial growth. But as we get more advanced and ships get bigger, that use for coal drops quite a bit. It would be nice to have something else it could be used for. Being able to convert Coal into Petrochemicals makes sense and would be nice. Another would be being able to convert Coal into Gemstones, just add heat and pressure (nice for those folks with Laser and other gemstone dependent weapons).

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