Hydrogen: Coal-to-Synthetic Natural Gas
Advanced Technologies for Production of H2 from Coal
DOE continues to support research and development projects which promote large-scale, affordable H2 production (or fuels derived from hydrogen) from coal with near-zero environmental emissions. These projects include the development and scale-up of advanced separation materials and devices for producing ultra-pure H2, and the development of advanced technology that consolidates multiple processing steps into a single step to reduce overall project costs.
In order to improve capital and operating costs, availability, decrease plant complexity, and, in general, address the challenges described above, there are several avenues of research and development (R&D) underway. These are discussed in depth at NETL's Coal & Coal Biomass to Liquids Program page. A brief summary of the program, which includes public and private research coordination, is included below.
The Coal & Coal Biomass to Liquids Program is split into four areas:
- Central Hydrogen Production
- Alternative Hydrogen Production
- Systems Studies
Central Hydrogen Production focuses on producing H2 directly from coal gasification while Alternative Hydrogen Production looks at converting coal to a high-hydrogen-content liquid hydrocarbon, alcohol, or SNG (as discussed previously) for delivery—see above on the difficulties transporting hydrogen. Both areas conduct research and development on lowering the cost and raising the efficiency of unit operations. This includes improving gas cleanup, heat exchange, water-gas-shift reactors (to increase hydrogen content), separation processes, and integration. Additionally, the Alternative Hydrogen Production area conducts computational analyses to identify optimal intermediate products, reaction pathways, and catalysts.
The Utilization group oversees research on the use of H2, in fuel cells for example. Fuel cell technology has several challenges to overcome before widespread adoption, discussed on the Fuel Cells section. In the interim, the group is evaluating the use of hydrogen/natural gas mixes in special reciprocating engine designs (the homogenously charged compression ignition engine, for example). Lastly, Systems Studies conducts overall analyses related to the effect of H2 from coal. This includes studies like:
- Comparison of Current and Future Technology for Hydrogen from Coal
- Comparison of Hydrogen Production Costs from Coal and Natural Gas
- Costs of Producing Hydrogen from Liquid Fuels from Coal
More on each of these areas of research and development and the Coal & Coal Biomass to Liquids Program, in general, can be found on NETL's site.