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Montana Governor Testing GTL-Powered Pickup

Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer and staff will be testing a Dodge Ram 2500 pickup powered by a Cummins diesel engine fueled by neat synthetic diesel produced by Syntroleum’s Gas-to-Liquids Fischer-Tropsch process.

The Dodge Ram pickup was donated by Dodge dealerships across Montana. Syntroleum is providing the Fischer-Tropsch synthetic diesel, which can be made from natural gas, coal or biomass. Governor Brian Schweitzer is outspoken about his belief in the need for the development of a coal-to-liquids industry—using Montana coal. (Earlier post.)

We are pleased to assist Governor Brian Schweitzer in his visionary efforts to bring attention to Fischer-Tropsch opportunities in the United States. Much like the gas-to-liquids process, we believe we can produce ultra-clean fuels from coal using our Fischer-Tropsch technology.

We fully expect the diesel being used to operate the governor’s vehicle will validate the ultra-clean characteristics of Fischer-Tropsch fuels, which have no detectable sulfur or aromatics, are biodegradable and have a high cetane number. Additionally, unlike some alternative fuels, Syntroleum’s diesel is 100 percent compatible with current and future diesel engines and can be used as a blending agent.

—Jack Holmes, president and CEO of Syntroleum

Syntroleum S-2 Properties
2007 EPA
Sulfur (PPM) 0 15
Aromatics (%) 0 30
Cetane Number 74+ 45
Specific gravity 0.77 0.85

Syntroleum will be providing up to 3,000 gallons of its S-2 synthetic diesel fuel to the State of Montana. The demonstration program will look at the fuel efficiency of S-2 and the impact on engine operation and driver perception of the fuel.

The governor and staff will keep careful records of gas mileage and maintenance and the results will be regularly returned to Daimler Chrysler and Syntroleum for their research.



This is the Governor's vehicle? I guess he does his a little hauling along with his other Governor duties.


This isn't the governor's personal vehicle. He drives a diesel Jetta (again using either biodiesel or synthetic diesel).

Thomas Pedersen

By all means, let's burn dirty coal to keep the gigantic trucks running...

Sorry, needed to let off at little steam.

While coal-to-liquids can be part of a solution to the peak oil problem, it exacerbates global warming. Even with CO2 sequestration from the process (which I will believe when I see it) you still emit CO2 at the tail pipe.

We do not *have* to burn all fossil fuels available.

If coal to liquids gasoline could be made for, say the equivalent of 4 $/gal and renewable energy plus plug-ins/EVs for $5, then I suggest a two dollar tax on the former to promote the latter! We *can* afford to pollute less and I just do not see that happening with CTL.

Alan Njeru

hehehehehhe! Plug in hybrids still consume electricity generated using King COAL. THe USA produces more than 50% of her electricity using coal. The likes of China even consume more. Guess there is no way around coal.

Another thing you have to consider is that to make that battery you need minerals which are obtained through large scale mining and are not very plentiful. for example, the process to produce Nickel, one of the metals used to make hybrid batteries, you need alot of energy. Once you factor in entire LCAs you realize that even solar which is sold as a clean source could actually be very dirty.


re: Coal to Liquids,

Due to its dirty history I can understand why there is an immediate negative emotional reaction to Coal in all forms. But on carefull objective examination I have come to agree that Clean Coal is not quite the oxymoron that it would first appear through green coloured glasses. Carbon capture is possible and has already been demonstrated at the Great Plains synfuels plant in North Dakota. The CO2 is sequestered in an old oil field near Weyburn Saskatchewan. In the U.S. construction is about to begin on the first FutureGen power plant that is designed to have near zero emmitions.

What is neaded to make carbon capture more attractive to the bottom line is a tax on carbon. (start small and have it grow predictably over time). For further info check out a very enlightening book by environmentalist and economist Mark Jaccard.



I like the idea of plug-ins (PHEVs and EVs) until I realize that wow, I don't have any place to plug it in. I think keeping my current residence is more important than dragging a power cord out my window, down the side of a building, into the parking lot and violating the rules of the apartments to reduce my "CO2 footprint". Then again I moved close enough to my place of work that I usually just walk to work whenever I don't need to make any trips (groceries, etc) at the end of the day.


Plug-ins are a non event. Just not attractive enough.

And their engines have to carry a heavy electro engine and very heavies batteries. That's just nonsense.

What about the recycling of billions of old batteries? Just forget it.

John W.

This article is about coal to fuel, not bashing plug-in's, which is nonsense in itself.

Neil, I would be very interested if you can provide a link about that new coal plant you mentioned which is being put up with near zero emissions, or at least a name. (That will help put down the errant claims of some that a grid fed electric automobile infrastructure will be dirtier than the status quo.)


Hi John,

Here's a URL for FutureGen:


There is also a coal fired electrical plant in Alberta Canada that produces electricity with emitions comparable to a gas fired plant. Genesee 3

Hey Pal ... I want a plugin! no nonsense.

Patrick ... Bravo for walking! If plug-ins are common enough they may add some extra wiring to apt. buildings.
It may also be that some of the newer Li-on Poly batteries will have short charge up times (minutes instead of hours).

Rafael Seidl

Neil -

think about it. Let's assume your PHEV battery got you 20 miles all-electric range in level terrain at an average speed of 30mph. The average power drain would be on the order of ~7kW at the wheels, i.e. ~10kW at the battery terminals. That means you'd need ~7kWh usable battery capacity (considering longevity).

Recharging a PHEV battery in just five minutes would require 80kW at the terminals, i.e. ~90kW at the outlet. The remainder goes up in heat in the vehicle's power converter, which might have to be water cooled. It would also have to shape its current demand to avoid generating excessive harmonics (aka line EMI). This is not a trivial requirement at these power levels.

Even with 220VAC rotary current, you need over 400 amps. The cable would have to be as thick as your arm. Besides, you'd also need to deploy a sophisticated system of (fairly expensive) power electronic switches to prevent unsafe or unauthorized use of the outlets.

So, for 5-minute PHEV refuelling, think full-service station, not an extra apartment building outlet.

Rafael Seidl

Regarding CTL:

sequestration in oil fields may be feasible for Montana as the CO2 could be shipped to Alberta in a pipeline. However, the overheads would be substantial. For example, in a harsh winter the CO2 could turn to dry ice on the way, potentially clogging the pipe. You'd also have to condense out the water to avoid corrosion and regular ice formation.

However, if you were just looking to replace gasoline/diesel from oil and decided to live with the greenhouse effect, it might be good enough to use the (suitably tempered) CO2 to enrich the atmosphere of a very large number of large area bioreactors for growing fuel crops (oil algae?). The F-T process heat would be used to produce electricity via a steam or Kalina cycle.



Thanks for the input, I wasn't actually thinking of the extra appt. wiring for quick recharge, I was thinking more in terms of overnight. Yes, the faster charge would require a service station and I was thinking more in terms of 15 to 30 min. for a recharge (bring a book). Just floating a balloon here, but what if the battery was a service (like a diaper service) where the energy company owned the battery, you pay a flat monthly charge for battery rental, when you go to the service station they swap the battery (it would have to be somewhere easy to get at), pay a flat fee for the exchange and then pay for the energy. This would lower the initial purchase price of the car, allow the energy company to amortize the cost of the battery over several years and keep the energy companies in business so they don't use their pull to squash PHEV's (or EV's)



Back to the original point. This is coal to liquids,folks. The co2 from the liquid obviously won't be sequestered since it will be burned in an auto.

Neil, you're idea seems reasonable. After all, that's the way many of us get our propane for our gas grills. Shop and swatch. Makes sense unless we can get quick recharge. We'd all, of course, have to make the batteries easy to swap.



Billions of old batteries will be, as name suggests, recycled, i.e. used to build new batteries. Current rate of recycling of led from old automotive batteries approaches 90%, and this is exact reason why lead batteries nowadays are so cheap.

BTW, economical big scale recycling is possible only if recycled item is non-toxic. This is exact reason why mass production of hybrids have to wait appearance of NiMH batteries instead of Ni-Cd (Cd is bioaccumulative and highly toxic).

An Engineer

The Montana governor is on the right track. Now he should just be encouraged to look at BTL, as opposed to CTL and GTL. BTL is renewable, carbon-neutral and unlike corn ethanol it does not use food as a feedstock. The USDA and DOE estimate that we have enough waste (mainly forest and crop) to replace a third of our petroleum use (http://feedstockreview.ornl.gov/pdf/billion_ton_vision.pdf). I am sure Montana produces a lot of forest wastes.

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