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DOE Releases Feasibility Study for Conceptual Coal-to-Liquids Facility in Midwest

Process diagram for the CTL plant. Click to enlarge.

The US DOE Office of Fossil Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) 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 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. The concept includes a cluster of four gasification plants, each containing two gasifier trains for a total of eight gasifier trains.

Each gasification train cluster utilizes two oxygen-blown high pressure ConocoPhillips E-Gas two-stage gasifiers to produce a medium heating value syngas. Oxygen fed to the gasifiers is generated by two cryogenic air separation units (ASUs).

Syngas from the gasification plants is joined in a central manifold and ducted to a central CTL plant. The CTL plant contains F-T reactors, hydrotreating units and hydrocracking units capable of consuming 24,533 tons per day of high-sulfur bituminous coal to produce 27,819 bbl/day of commercial-grade diesel liquid and 22,173 bbl/day of naphtha liquids, which could be shipped to a refinery for further upgrading into commercial-grade end products or for use as a feedstock for the chemicals industry.

The plant design also includes equipment to capture 32,481 tons per day of carbon dioxide, which is compressed to 2,200 psia for injection into a pipeline. Subsequent off-site use and/or sequestration of carbon dioxide were not considered in this design.

The CTL plant also generates electric power, both for internal use and for export to the grid. The off-gas from the F-T process is compressed and used as fuel for the gas turbines, which produce a total of 251 MWe. Unburned fuel remaining in the turbine exhaust is combusted in a downstream duct burner.

Hot flue gas from the gas turbine passes through a heat recovery steam generator to produce superheated high-pressure steam. The resulting steam is combined with that produced by cooling the syngas in the gasification train and with that generated by recovering heat from the F-T reactors and expanded in a multi-stage steam turbine to generate an additional 401 MWe.

Auxiliary plant loads consume the majority of the generated power, leaving a net 124 MWe available for export to the grid.

The total projected plant cost is $3.65 billion. Total capital costs including working capital, start up costs, and owners costs are $4.07 billion. Adding allowances for financing costs results in a total project cost of $4.53 billion.

The study concluded that commercial-scale CTL plants using Midwestern bituminous coal represent “promising economic opportunities,” depending upon the price of crude oil. Based on the specific plant configuration evaluated, the financial analysis projects a 19.8% return on investment, a net present value of more than $1.5 billion, and a payback period of 5 years if the price of crude is $61/bbl. At crude oil prices greater than $37/bbl, the project would achieve ROIs greater than 10%, and a 15% ROI can be achieved at crude oil prices greater than $47/bbl.




So it begins.


That's a feasibility study.

No actual financing has been arranged or dates set.
Wonder how long a project like that would take from begin of design to commissioning? At least 2 to 3 + years I figure.


At least they are sequestering the carbon dioxide.....


Coal should be little more then a fill-in for oil until other liquid fuels such as ethanol and biobutanol become more readily availible. Unfortunatly in the meantime coal won't do much for CO2 emissions or for the economy.


Coal's one saving grace is that we have so much of it within or own borders.


Coal gasification is big potential weapon against peak oil. Sure 40 years after peak oil due to over mining of coal there will be "peak coal" and there won't be anything left that we can mine and burn.


A reasonable and practical bump in CAFE standards would make crazy things like CTL projects unnecessary...



Or they could help displace even more oil imports while CTL facilities come online.


The uptake of gasification technology could be a good thing though I think CCS will flunk out in most locations. Let carbon taxes or caps influence the technology. Thus CTL with no CCS gets taxed to the max, CTL with CCS gets taxed less, BTL gets no tax and XTL with mixed coal and biomass inputs gets carbon taxed somewhere in between.


Angelo: This report only says that the equipment for capturing the CO2 will be build ... they don't actually have a plan to sequester it.


CTL for direct use in auto is a horrible idea since you are still releasing co2 to the atmosphere. This idea, however, makes more sense, since it is theroretically possible to capture virtually all of the CO2. Transitioning to a more electrified economy is not a silver bullet, but it has more promise that continuing to flog the ICE solution with respect to the automobile.

Note, however, that the study did not consider sequestration, just input of the co2 into a pipeline.


Peak oil is one thing, but what if countries do not want to sell it to the U.S.? What if the dollar value has declined so much that it costs a lot more to buy it from those countries that are willing to sell it to us?

Peak oil means that we will never produce more oil than we produced at one point in time. With increasing demand, you can see the problem. But, it is availability to the U.S. that matters to the U.S. The decline in the value of the dollar just makes it more expensive. But if over half of the world's supply of oil is in the hands of those countries that do not like us, then we have a bigger problem.

Someone said that powerful countries do not have friends, they have interests. We know what our interests are, but maybe now we need a few more friends.


Or we could use the CO2 out gas to make more clean diesel instead on pumping into the ground. We will all be in a world of hurt if our oil supply is cut off anytime soon. If you think high mileage cars are the answer then go buy one now and stop crying about it.

Making Gasoline from Carbon Dioxide

Joff Pentz

SJC - A "weak" dollar is only bad for travelers. The declining value of the dollar does not change the worldwide price of oil, it changes the amount of dollars we spend for each barrel - If Platts Gulf Coast puts it at 60 dollars a barrel on the three day average, then you will find the assignments on the London Commodities exchange will be in the neighborhood of 30 Pounds sterling. When that oil is brokered for colonial, transneft, etc delivery, the currency is converted, and you are ahead of the game. Besides, our deficits based on the decline of the dollar are matched by an increase in net cap inflow. The result is that if you are invested in the sell side of the petroleum market, the more expensive it gets, the more you can afford to purchase.
Now, more expensive to the average American purchaser? Possibly so, but one of the axioms of finance applies here: If you are not hedged against the decline of your primary currency, you've brought your personal economic problems on yourself - In short, you deserve to be unable to purchase what you need. There is a good reason finance 101 teaches to invest in emerging markets.


That might be true if the U.S. did not have such a large trade deficit imbalance.

If $200 billion goes to oil countries and $200 billion goes to China and $200 billion go to Japan for autos (just hypothetical numbers) then their reserve currency in dollars will grow each year.

This had been coming back in the form of T Bond sales to finance our budget deficits, but Saudi Arabia and Japan already own about $1 trillion of our T Bonds and are not in the mood to buy more.

Joff Pentz

That's simply not true - they are buying more. China, in particular, uses this investment to pin their currency to the dollar - one reason why when politicians ask China to float the Yuan, they may not be looking at the situation from all angles.
The large trade deficit is precisely why their is a net positive cap inflow. People like to speak about it like it is a major problem, but economically, it is a non issue. It is no different from the Unions in the 80s moaning about Japan owning the entire United States.
The 200 billion dollars you reference are not held in reserve because we are not on a gold standard - on the contrary, they are reinvested in the market, eventually becoming part of the US M2 again.


So, you are not concerned by the trade and budget deficits and I am. We disagree. I think most economists will tell you that trade and budget deficits as large as we have had, for as long as we have had them are not good.

Obviously, you are free to believe what ever you want, but I doubt that you will convince me or many others of your position, nor your conclusions based on your assertions.

Joff Pentz

I make those assertions because I make my living with economics (and finance) and have a masters degree in economics with a specialization in international economics, so an intimate understanding of how money flows from one nation to another is required to put bread on my table. I suppose we will have to agree to disagree, but I know what works on a day to day basis, and I know how little the public understands what is truly important in the economic world.
I also know that if you relied on an understanding of economic principles to make a living, you would quickly adopt my viewpoint - don't you ever wonder why the only people that worry about the deficit are the "economics experts" on MSN, etc? Because those that use it on a daily basis know that it is a poor indictator of the strength of a nation, particularly when a nation is based on service sector employment, like the United States, as opposed to Manufacturing based, like China.
You misundertand the goal of my post - I feel no need to convince you of anything, just to point out that the strength of the dollar is a poor indicator of where a nation is heading. What I told you about the way the worldwide economic system works is simply factual - that is the way currency flows. If you don't believe it, that's okay - you don't need to believe in it for it to work. And as long as people need commodities on an international basis, I will make a great living. I would, however, recommend a book to you - Naked Economics by Charles Wheelan. It is an excellent primer on the realities of the economic system, and though I don't agree with all of his viewpoints, I find his explanation of the system to be the best out there.

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