Issue Date: March 10, 2008
Coal For Liquid Fuels
Regarding "GM Backs Ethanol Start-up Coskata," synthesis gas can be most economically and conveniently made from domestic resources via domestic coal, not biomass, as discussed in the article(C&EN, Jan. 21, page 11). This objective for domestic transportation fuels can be effectively accomplished via the coal gasification process that has been commercial at the Eastman Chemical plant in Kingsport, Tenn., for many years and that has been expanded at least once.
Eastman's coal gasification process can be altered to produce relatively pure carbon dioxide for sequestration in saline aquifers, if desired. In addition, it should be noted that synthesis gas can be used to directly produce methanol, a very high octane internal combustion engine fuel itself, or to produce sulfur- and nitrogen-free diesel fuel via Fischer-Tropsch synthesis. These two processes are again proven, large-scale technologies.
No new biological processes are needed for domestically sourced transportation fuels. All that's needed is a level playing field for inherently large-scale, proven chemical processes producing traditional transportation fuels relative to current relatively small-scale production of fermentation ethanol and biodiesel. These two current biofuels now have large federal subsidies, perhaps just due to the political clout of farmers and the agrochemical industry.
Harry W. Parker
Lake Jackson, Texas
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