WASHINGTON, DC - The Office of Fossil Energy's National Energy Technology Laboratory has issued a report that examines the feasibility of a commercial 50,000 barrel per day coal-to-liquids (CTL) facility in the Illinois coal basin. The conceptual design study provides a performance baseline that can be used to show how CTL could capitalize on domestic energy resources while providing a much-needed bulwark against rising petroleum and natural gas prices.
The price of coal-derived liquid fuels has traditionally been unable to compete with the price of fuels derived from crude oil. As oil prices continue to rise, however, domestic sources of transportation fuels are becoming more affordable. The economic and national security concerns related to non-domestic liquid fuels have more eyes turning to alternative sources of liquid fuels, and, with coal being America's most abundant energy resource, CTL facilities may provide a winning option.
The report, Baseline Technical and Economic Assessment of a Commercial Scale Fischer-Tropsch Liquids Facility, represents the first of a series of plant design studies for commercial-scale Fischer-Tropsch (F-T) plants.
The plant design incorporates coal gasification technology and an F-T reactor system using an iron-based catalyst. At full capacity, the configuration outlined in the report is projected to produce the following, using 24,533 tons per day of high-sulfur bituminous coal:
- 27,819 barrels per day of diesel fuel that, with additives, can be delivered to end-use customers.
- 22,173 barrels per day of liquid naptha products that can be shipped to a refinery for further upgrading to commercial grade products or sold as chemical feedstock.
- 124 MWe net output of electricity that can be exported to the grid, in addition to the electricity generated for internal use.
An environmentally friendly energy producer, the conceptual plant complies with "best available control technology" guidelines for sulfur, nitrous oxides, particulate matter, and mercury. In addition, CO2 will be captured and compressed for injection into a pipeline.
The report also touts promising economic benefits, based on the price of crude oil. At current prices over $60 per barrel, the commercial-scale CTL plant configuration used in the study projects a nearly 20 percent return on investment - a net present value of more than $1.5 billion, and a payback period of 5 years at full plant capacity. Additionally, policy initiatives, such as Federal loan guarantees, could raise this return to more than 30 percent, as forecast in the report.
The feasibility analysis updates information generated by the Energy Department in the 1990s and is a step forward in making the most of America's resources. Future CTL facilities could help provide stable, secure, affordable energy supplies to meet the Nation's ever-growing energy demands, with the added bonus of carbon capture and sequestration to help address environmental concerns associated with coal.