In April 2005, Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman asked the National Coal Council (NCC) to conduct a study and prepare a report identifying the challenges and opportunities for more fully exploiting US domestic coal resources. The first volume of the report is now in, and proposes an eight-point aggressive expansion of the use of coal via “BTU conversion” for transportation and energy needs.
The chair of the report Study Group is Gregory Boyce, CEO of Peabody Energy—the world’s largest private-sector coal company, with 2005 sales of 240 million tons of coal and $4.6 billion in revenues. Its coal products fuel approximately 10% of all US and 3% of worldwide electricity.
Boyce has begun promoting the NCC eight primary recommendations, outlining them in a 12 April speech to the Industrial Energy Consumers of America (IECA). The eight primary recommendations are:
A massive expansion of Coal-to-Liquids Processing to produce 2.6 million barrels of coal liquids (fuels and chemicals) per day. Production at that level would meet approximately 10% of US petroleum demand and consume an additional 475 million tons of coal per year.
To achieve that level of production would, according to Peabody, require the construction of 33 large coal-to-liquids plants. Each plant—with an estimated cost of $6.4 billion—would consume 14.4 million tons of coal per year to produce 80,000 barrels per day of liquid fuel.
Delivering that amount of coal would required expanding coal mining 43% above today’s level. The CTL proposal represents largest single use of expanded coal production of any of the proposals.
Coal for ethanol production. Currently, natural gas, diesel fuel and electricity are used to produce ethanol. The NCC proposes increasing the use of coal for heat and electricity in the production of ethanol to reduce costs and displace oil and natural gas by significant amounts. This would consume an additional 40 million tons of coal per year.
Coal-To-Hydrogen. Development of a fleet of coal-to-hydrogen plants would mean that coal could satisfy at least 10% of the nation’s transportation needs with FreedomCAR efficiencies, according to the NCC study. This application would use an additional 70 million tons of coal per year.
Coal-To-Natural Gas. With conventional natural gas production in decline, gasifying coal to produce methane could displace about 15% of US annual natural gas consumption—the equivalent of 4 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) per year—according to the NCC.
Coal-To-Clean Electricity. Construction of 100 GW of coal-to-clean electricity plants by 2025 would mean that coal would satisfy more than 60% of the expected increase in electricity-generating capacity by using an additional 375 million tons of coal per year.
Expand the mining industry and US transportation infrastructure to accommodate growth in coal production by over 1.3 billion tons per year by 2025.
Invest the required $515 billion by 2025 (present value of $350 billion) to develop an additional 1.3 billion tons of coal per year
Enhanced Oil and Gas (Coalbed Methane) Recovery via Carbon Capture. The NCC proposes accelerating work on the capture and storage of carbon dioxide thrown off by the various coal processing schemes and its use for enhanced oil recovery and for the production of methane from coalbeds.
|US Indirect (Fischer-Tropsch) CTL Projects Under Consideration in the US|
|State||Developers||Coal type||Capacity (bpd)|
|AZ||Hopi Tribe, Headwaters||Bituminous||10,000–50,000|
|MT||State of Montana||Sub-bit./Lignite||10,000–50,000|
|ND||GRE, NACC, Falkirk, Headwaters||Lignite||10,000–50,000|