Project No: FWP-2012.03.05
Performer: NETL On-Site Research


Jenny Tennant
Technology Manager
Coal and Coal/Biomass to Liquids
National Energy Technology Laboratory
3610 Collins Ferry Road
P.O. Box 880
Morgantown, WV 26507-0880
(304) 285-4830

Arun Bose
Federal Project Manager
National Energy Technology Laboratory
626 Cochrans Mill Road
P.O. Box 10940
Pittsburgh, PA 15236-0940
(412) 386-4467

Randall Gemmen
Principal Investigator
National Energy Technology Laboratory
3610 Collins Ferry Road
P.O. Box 880
Morgantown, WV 26507-0880
(304) 285-4536

Award Date:  10/01/2011
Project Date:  09/30/2014

DOE Share: $2,950,000.00
Performer Share: $0.00
Total Award Value: $2,950,000.00

Performer website: NETL On-Site Research - /research/on-site-research/research-portfolio/coal-research/advanced-energy-systems/fuels

Advanced Energy Systems - Coal and Coal/Biomass to Liquids

Advanced Energy Systems - Fuels

Project Description

The objective of the National Energy Technology Laboratory – regional University Alliance (NETL-RUA) Coal/Biomass to Liquids (CBTL) research is to assist Fossil Energy in the development and deployment of coal-based thermochemical conversion technologies that will facilitate the production of domestic synthetic fuels with more advantageous economics and better greenhouse gas (GHG) footprint than conventional petroleum-derived fuels. Specifically, the NETL-RUA research will focus on the development of materials and processes tailored for standalone unit operations as well as process intensification opportunities of the future, including the coupling of gas conversion and separation technologies. Efforts will focus on the development of more rugged materials (i.e. catalysts, H2-enrichment), and engineering opportunities to enhance process efficiency (i.e. reactor design) while overcoming thermodynamic limitations (i.e. process intensification). Specifically, the current NETL Office of Research and Development (NETL-ORD) effort will explore and develop &"post-syngas production” strategies focused predominantly on the management of CBTL-based Fischer-Tropsch (FT) tail gas options including the optimization of recycle, power generation, and energy commodity production.

Program Background and Project Benefits

The Department of Energy (DOE) is committed to supporting research focused on making use of the nation's coal and biomass resources. The Coal and Coal Biomass to Liquids (C&CBTL) Technology Program at DOE's National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) is developing advanced technologies to remove technical barriers that will foster the commercial adoption of coal and coal/biomass gasification technologies for the production of affordable hydrogen and liquid fuels (such as gasoline, diesel, aviation, and military fuels). The hydrogen can be used in advanced systems for efficient power generation produced with near-zero emissions and with the potential to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The synthesis gas (syngas) produced by the gasification of coal and coal/biomass mixtures can be converted by chemical processes to generate clean liquid hydrocarbon fuels. To successfully complete the development of C&CBTL technologies from the present state to the point of commercial readiness, the C&CBTL Program efforts are focused on two Key Technologies: (1) Coal/Biomass Feed and Gasification, and (2) Advanced Fuels Synthesis.

The Advanced Fuels Synthesis Key Technology is focused on catalyst and reactor optimization for producing liquid hydrocarbon fuels from coal/biomass mixtures, supports the development and demonstration of advanced separation technologies, and sponsors research on novel technologies to convert coal/biomass to liquid fuels. Also included are detailed life cycle analyses to quantify the technical, economic, and environmental feasibility of producing liquid fuels from coal/biomass feedstock.

This NETL Office of Research and Development (ORD) project will:

Project Scope and Technology Readiness Level

This project will use an &"Integrated Technology Development” approach to leverage top-down computational and experimental approaches focused on providing relevant techno-economic solutions to facilitate CBTL deployment. Targets of this research include:

Providing insight to the fundamental phenomena that will lead to the development of transformational materials, systems, and processes for CBTL technologies.

The overall technical approach will focus on the development of technologies that can be deployed to evaluate materials and systems in environments such as post-warm gas cleaning and integration into water-gas shift technologies. For example, materials developed and specimens will be evaluated in real syngas environment and realistic temperature and pressure conditions at every scale of development, rather than at the end of the development cycle. Continuous evaluation of materials and systems throughout the development cycle will allow for a more rapid assessment of promising technologies.

This three-year project is aimed at providing a design basis for robust separation modules based on previous work in metal membranes technology. To achieve this goal, computational study, laboratory study, and coupon/slip-stream exposure of candidate materials will be combined to: (1) understand the influence of minor and major gas constituents  on surface catalytic activity; (2) understand surface stability in syngas environments; (3) understand bulk stability and bulk transport, which includes any effect of surface products; (4) apply the knowledge base to design and optimize a separation module; and (5) develop an understanding of opportunities for the integration of separation technologies to other unit operations.

In addition, the NETL-ORD will continue to leverage and expand its relationship with the National Carbon Capture Center (NCCC) and other Strategic Center for Coal Program partners (i.e. the University of Kentucky's Center for Applied Energy Research, the University of North Dakota Energy and Environmental Research Center) in an effort to accelerate technology deployment, provide unbiased assessment of emerging technologies, and leverage internal expertise and facilities when opportunities exist.

The Technology Readiness Level (TRL) assessment identifies the current state of readiness of the key technologies being developed under the DOE’s Clean Coal Research Program.  This project has not been assessed.

The TRL assessment process and its results including definition and description of the levels may be found in the "2012 Technology Readiness Assessment-Analysis of Active Research Portfolio". 


A new alloying concept for preparing novel separation materials, referred to as "high entropy alloys", has been explored. High-entropy alloys are formed by synthesizing multiple principal elements in equimolar or near equimolar concentrations, which may lead to greater stability. The high-entropy alloys that were investigated contained six principal elements (cobalt, chromium, copper, iron, nickel, and aluminum) plus boron added at various proportions. Their stability in a post water-gas shift reactor environment was tested gravimetrically for corrosion resistance in simulated syngas containing 0, 0.01, 0.1, and 1 percent hydrogen sulfide (H2S) at 500 degrees Celsius (°C). No significant corrosion of these alloys was detected under syngas conditions of 0 and 0.01 percent H2S whereas significant corrosion was observed under syngas conditions of 0.1 and 1 percent H2S. Evidence suggests that greater stability can be obtained by minimizing the amount of copper in the alloy.

One of the outcomes of previous tests exposing alloys to "real" syngas performed in collaboration with the National Carbon Capture Center (NCCC) in Wilsonville, Alabama, was that minor gas stream components such as arsenic (As) and selenium (Se) may play a more significant role in membrane activity and stability than previously thought. Uptake of these contaminants by alloys was significant during exposure to a slipstream of real syngas. For this reason, an existing test apparatus is being modified to accommodate simultaneous exposure testing of up to 48 coupons to simulated syngas containing As and/or Se.

Materials Development

Process Development

Performance Validation