The Senate has approved the preparation of a national coal-to-liquids development program.
Proposed by Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) as an amendment to the Senate’s just-passed defense appropriations bill (S.1042), the language calls for the Department of Energy to prepare a development plan for the national coal-to-liquids program within 90 days of the enactment of the bill and for the Department of Defense to prepare a report on the potential use of the resulting synthetic fuels.
The development plan is to consider:
Technology needs and developmental barriers;
Economic and national security effects;
Environmental standards and carbon capture and storage opportunities;
Timelines and milestones;
Diverse regions having coal reserves that would be suitable for liquefaction plants;
Coal-liquid fuel testing to meet civilian and military engine standards and markets; and
Any roles other Federal agencies, State governments, and international entities could play in developing a coal-to-liquid fuel industry.
The Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) is promoting a Clean Fuel Initiative that would support the development of domestic synthetic fuels from resources such as oil shale and coal with the intention of eventually running its battlefield machinery with them. (Earlier post.)
The US military currently consumes some 300,000 barrels of transportation fuel per day—75% of which is produced in US refineries.
The OSD Clean Fuels Initiative has two primary approaches:
Total Energy Development Program: to catalyze the commercial production of fuels from alternative resources—i.e., unconventional and synthetic.
Battlefield Use Fuel of the Future (BUFF) Program: to evaluate, demonstrate, certify turbine fuels from alternative energy resources for use in tactical vehicles, aircraft and ships.
The latter program has focused a great deal on Fischer-Tropsch fuels, and has amassed some interesting test data. (Such as a 96% reduction at idle, 78% reduction at cruise in PM emissions from jets burning a FT variant of JP-8.)
Argonne National Laboratory is planning to expand its Well-to-Wheel analyses of the greenhouse gas, criteria emissions and energy impacts of different fuel pathways with a Coal-to-Liquids analysis next year.