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TransGas Development Systems to Build $3B CTL Plant in West Virginia; 6.5M Barrels of Gasoline Per Year

Flow diagram of the PRENFLO gasification process with direct quench (PDQ) to be used in the TransGas plant. Click to enlarge.

TransGas Development Systems LLC (TGDS) plans to build a $3B coal-to-liquids (CTL) plant in Mingo County, West Virginia, according to company announcement made during the West Virginia Energy Summit. Projected to be operational by 2013, the plant will be built in Mingo County’s new energy park near Gilbert. TGDS estimates the facility will use up to 3 million tons of locally mined coal a year to produce more than 6.5 million barrels of gasoline.

TGDS has signed a licensing agreement with Uhde Corporation of America for two 1,000 MWth PRENFLO (PRessurized ENtrained FLOw) gasifiers in the Direct Quench version (PDQ). The PRENFLO process, which operates at pressures of 40 bar and higher, is a further development of the Koppers-Totzek process developed in the 1940s, which operates at atmospheric pressure.

The PDQ version of the process is an optimized design of the basic PRENFLO process for chemical applications in which hydrogen-rich syngases are required. PDQ combines the dry feed system, multiple burners and membrane wall of the base PRENFLO system with a proprietary water quench system which saturates the raw syngas with water for subsequent gas treatment. The PDQ process also removes the requirement for capital-intensive systems such as the waste heat boiler system, the dry fly ash removal system and the quench gas compressor.

In the process, feedstock is prepared into a feed dust—about 80% of the dust is smaller than 0.1 mm and has a water content of approximately 1-2 wt% for hard coals and approximately 8-10 wt.% in the case of lignite. The feed dust is gasified in the PRENFLO gasifier using oxygen and steam as the agent. The gasification temperature is higher than the ash melting temperature, allowing the coal ash to be removed as slag.

The raw syngas, containing mainly CO and H2, is quenched with water and then cleaned in a scrubber. The filter cake from the slurry filtration system is recycled to the gasifier.

The PRENFLO technology handles all types of coal as well as petroleum coke, char and biomass. The gasification process produces economically valuable by-products such as slag and fly ash used in construction.

The syngas can be used in a number of applications. For synthetic gasoline production, Uhde uses ExxonMobil’s Methanol-to-Gasoline (MTG) catalytic process. (Earlier post.) Methanol is produced from the syngas, and then converted to gasoline. The conversion of methanol to hydrocarbons and water is virtually complete, Uhde says, and essentially stoichiometric in the process.

The reaction is exothermic with the reaction heat managed by splitting the process into two parts. In the first, the methanol is converted to an equilibrium mixture of methanol, DME (dimethyl ether) and water. In the second part, the equilibrium mixture is mixed with recycle gas and passed over a shape-selective catalyst to form hydrocarbons and water.

ExxonMobil and Uhde have been working together on MTG since the 1980s. In 2006, Shanxi Jincheng Anthracite Coal Mining Co. Ltd (JAM) awarded Uhde a contract to license and supply basic engineering, equipment and services for an MTG plant based on ExxonMobil’s fixed bed technology. Part of a demonstration project, the plant has a capacity of 2,600 barrels per day.

Separately, in July 2008, CONSOL Energy announced a joint venture—Northern Appalachia Fuel LLC (NAF)—in Marshall County to construct a CTL plant. NAF is currently negotiating with ExxonMobil Research and Engineering to license the MTG technology.

The joint venture formed by CONSOL to develop the plant will design a carbon-capture system in which waste carbon emissions from the plant will be sequestered in a deep saline aquifer. (Earlier post.)



This with 40 $ per bbl oil???

Alex Kovnat

I read the attached report (PRENFLO gasification), and have the following comments:

1. While this process addresses the desirability of substituting domestic fuel resources (i.e. coal) for imported oil, any process using coal is NOT going to be carbon-neutral. Hence we will have to be careful, to say the least, to maximize benefits (i.e. electricity + useful products) in proportion to carbon dioxide discharged into our atmosphere.

2. Coal ash contains small amounts of mercury and other toxic heavy metals. That will have to be taken into consideration in designing the overall system.

2a. In China (and we will most likely find this out with our own coal as well), coal ash piles are being studied as a source of uranium for their nuclear power effort. We should recover uranium (and thorium, if present) from ash and slag, not only to keep it out of the air, soil and water but also to provide a source of fuel for nuclear power plants.

3. We note that dimethyl ether (DME) is a product of the synthesis process. DME is a good fuel in its own right, and we should consider using it directly instead of converting it to gasoline.

3a. Methanol is useful too, as fuel and as a chemical building block. We may be better off using it directly, instead of converting it to something else.

Finally, 4: General Motors, before they ran into their most recent financial difficulties, invested its own money in a process devised by Coskata for converting synthesis gas into ethanol. Since ethanol is a good automotive fuel (octane rating well over 100), we should consider integrating the Coskata process into the TransGas system.


This with 40 $ per bbl oil???

Do you think it will remain at $40/bbl through 2013? I certainly don't.

black ice


I don't think so either; however, it won't be astronomical for prolonged periods of time in this given timeframe and probably well after this date; the price will fluctuate around some median value that constantly gets higher as the oil supplies dwindle.
But that's not the main problem. The problem is that coal-to-liquids is probably 5 times as CO2-intensive than oil.
Biofuels must be the highest priority. They will supplant oil-derived fuels until we get the storage system for the electrical car.


Good news:

That plant would keep our gas guzzlers running for about 8 hours a year.

About 1100 similar plants would keep them running for 365 days a year for xx years.


You guys aren't doing the math right. It's 6.5 M barrels of GASOLINE...refined & ready to go into cars. 1 barrel is what, roughly 40 gallons (US)? So 260 million gallons of gas per year... times $2 per gallon avg. equals $520 million dollars in revenue per year, equals plant paid for 6 years with revenue alone. Realistically maybe 10 to 15 years to pay back investors with operating expenses or something like that, but it will be a cash cow eventually. ...ejj...


The coal industry is obviously terrified of Obama's carbon cap plans. Not.

Nate H.

I think this is great. Lets do it again 10 more times! An excellent use for coal, an excellent source of income for Americans--in all aspects. Caterpillar wins, hotels in the area win, people working their keep their houses, spend money. And none of it goes to people who hate our guts.

Nate H.
Dover, Ohio


The heat and the hydrogen for the process should come from nuclear energy, not from burning coal. In that case, the fuel would be less carbon-intensive than petroleum-fuel. if then the carbon-source is biomass instead of coal, we're on the right track


OTOH if the process can use biomass and Obama genuinely brings in carbon taxes or cap-and-trade then the coal input fraction could decline over time. The technology would already be up and running as the carbon taxes got tougher. I suspect the trend to alcohol as opposed to traditional petrofuels (alkanes, aromatics etc) is due the use of fermentation. Maybe some optimised blend of alcohols and thermo-BTL can be worked out. The fly ash should be back loaded and spread on the fields or forests. The slag could be used in green cement.

Max Reid

Why are we sticking to gasolene, we can make Methane out of Coal and use it in our vehicles or to heat our homes.

There are 9 million CNG powered vehicles and we can also convert more of our cars to that fuel.

Methane can be used for multiple purposes like Heating, Drying, Cooking, Transport, etc.


The story says that you need hydrogen rich syn gas, coal does not make hydrogen rich syn gas, it makes carbon rich syn gas, so you end up dumping a large amount of CO2 to get the ratio right. This is true of any xTL scheme.

So Alain has it right, you need to build a nuclear powered hydrogen plant that produces H2 and O2 using a thermal cycle. You feed this to the xTL plant, you turn every carbon atom into fuel and you get a huge increase in the volume produced. And most of the energy that goes into your gas tank is clean green nuclear power.

It is the same as a PHEV but you don't need to make electicity and you don't need an advanced battery and a yet to be produced concept car. And better yet, if a succesful PHEV becomes available, we would be two steps ahead instead of one.

Oil will be well over $40 by 2013 try back over $100 as this price correction is just that a correction to a speculative bubble that brought the world into economic crisis once the crisis abades the underlying issues of supply scarcity vs increasing demand from the developing world will push the price higher once again and this comming time the price will not poof since with oil in crash no one is going to bring any new production on line or exploration so the next price spike and there will be on will be higher and longer as production struggles to keep pace with demand. geez people are so short sighted we need to invest in domestic production with a quickness along with the long term goals of using coal, biomass, and even nuclear hydrogen plus atmospheric CO2 as fuel. Livermore labs has a process that with nuclear h2 gas can produce hydrocarbons from thin air at $4 or a gallon this website had the post on the nuke to fuel process. gas will only be cheap during the depression once the markets get back on track up the price goes again and you can take that to the bank,.


The Fischer-Tropsch process was originally developed in Germany in the 1920s, and provided much of the fuel for Germany during the Second World War. It then became the basis for much oil production in South Africa by Sasol, which now supplies about 30% of that country's gasoline and diesel fuel. However, it is a significant user of hydrogen, catalyzing a reaction with carbon monoxide. The hydrogen is now produced with the CO by coal gasification, part of the gas stream undergoing the water shift reaction. A nuclear source of hydrogen coupled with nuclear process heat would more than double the amount of liquid hydrocarbons from the coal and eliminate most CO2 emissions from the process.
Using simply black coal, 14,600 tonnes produces 25,000 barrels of synfuel "oil" (with 25,000 tonnes of CO2).

The hybrid system uses nuclear electricity to electrolyse water for the hydrogen. Some 4400 tonnes of coal is gasified using oxygen from the electrolysis to produce carbon monoxide which is fed to the Fischer-Tropsch plant with the hydrogen to produce 25,000 barrels of synfuel "oil". Very little CO2 results, and this is recycled to the gasifier.

Freddy B

I agree with Nate H, Hooray for this project. However I doubt it will get built the due diligence minefield of finances, legal wrangling, environmental issues etc etc etc never happen...good luck to these guys!

black ice


Why gasify coal at all? If you have got a lot of cheap nuclear hydrogen, use CO2 from power plant stack gases etc. Then water-gas shift the mixture to the required composition which is usually 1:2 CO-H2 ratio.
This is possible because water gas shift works the other way around too, i.e. CO2 + H2 = CO + H2O, only this happens at high temperatures because it is endothermic.


Does anyone know how much CO2 this produces to make a gallon of gasoline, vs a gallon of gasoline from crude oil?


Well to Tank Report 2006 says for syn-diesel:

conventional diesel: 0,6 kgCO2/kg
diesel CTL (CCS): 1,68 kgCO2/kg
diesel CTL: 5,56 kgCO2/kg

+ combustion: 3.17 kgCO2/kg

black ice


If this makes 2.2 bbl/ton, that's 91 gal/ton, or 11 kilos coal per gallon. 11 kg coal contain about 9 kg carbon, which when burned gives 32 kg CO2. So the net emissions are 32 kg CO2 per gal with this process.
1 gal gasoline contains about 2.3 kg carbon, which would yield 8.4 kg CO2 when burned. To make it one would need only a little more than a gallon of crude. In any case, the total emissions will not exceed 10 kg CO2 per gallon.
More than three times as CO2-intensive!

...and add to these 32 kg CO2 per gal the emissions from the power plant to make electricity for making oxygen, compressors etc. They most likely did not include this in their calculations. The total would probably be around 50 kg/gal.


I suspect if there is no breakthrough on battery technology that 'semi-synthetic hydrocarbons' might win the day. That would be continuous nuclear or batch mode solar thermal heat or hydrogen plus biomass carbon. Despite the cost liquid fuels will probably always be needed to achieve power-to-weight in aircraft and range extension in PHEVs long after CTL and GTL are impractical. Buses and trucks could run on compressed semi-synthetic methane. The issue is not so much net energy but practicality because planes and one hour road commuters can't use batteries only.

black ice

Good point Aussie!
Of all possible solutions the most practical wins!
I think that red-ox batteries will never get so practical as to beat naturally available HC's, and even synthetic HC's.

Jude C

The U.S. Air Force has buttressed arguments for coal as a prime source of national security due to its fuel flexibility. Plans are now underway to fuel half our North American fleet with a synthetic fuel blend by 2016, as the Air Force promises to be a ready customer when a large-scale coal to liquids (CTL) program is developed in the U.S. The Air Force hopes private developers will convert its 700-acre Malmstrom base in central Montana into the first of a nationwide network of CTL facilities. It is believed the private sector, from commercial air fleets to trucking companies, could soon follow. A recent Air Force test flight using a synthetic fuel was a success. Our other major sources of energy – oil, natural gas, and nuclear power – simply do not provide the national security advantages we retain from coal. CoalCanDoThat.com and other sites point out the endless potential of coal.

Don't bother, use micronised slurry coal in stationary diesel engines (50% thermal efficiency) to generate electricity and district heating and / of fish farming.

Use this to to charge electric vehicles or free up natural gas to use as a transport fuel.

Alternatively use solar assist on existing coal plants to reduce the volume of coal burn.

Paul F. Dietz

any process using coal is NOT going to be carbon-neutral.

If the feedstock is half coal, half biomass, and you sequester the CO2 side stream, then the process can be carbon neutral.

An all-biomass process doing the same would be carbon negative, though.

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