DKRW has announced that it has signed a deal with ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Company for the methanol to gasoline segment of technology to complete the Medicine Bow facility conversion to gasoline from diesel production.

The Medicine Bow facility will convert the coal first to synthetic gas, then on to methanol and finish by converting the methanol to gasoline. The construction plans process capture of the emitted CO2 for sale in enhanced oil recovery projects. Products in addition to the 630,000 gallons per day of gasoline include electricity, steam, off-gas, slag, chemicals, 110,000 gallons of other fuels and energy products.

The technology is the current art of technology first commercialized by Mobil 20 years ago in New Zealand. Mobil began with a pilot project in the US that yielded 4 barrels per day and scaled the pilot to a 100-barrel per day pilot in Germany in partnership with Uhde. In 1979, the government of New Zealand joint ventured at a 75% share with Mobil (at 25%) for a 14,500 bpd at Montunui, NZ. The Montunui plant ran over ten years until conversion to a chemical grade methanol product.

The ExxonMobil design of methanol to gasoline is a virtually complete and essentially stoichiometric process. The reaction is a two-part process using exothermic heat inputs. Part one has the methanol converted to a mixture of methanol, water and dimethyl ether held in equilibrium. During the second part, the mixture is combined with recycle gas and passed over a shape selective catalyst to form the hydrocarbons and water. In the heated conditions, most of the hydrocarbon products boil into the gasoline range. The yield is a low-sulfur, low benzene premium quality gasoline, LPG, and fuel gas.

1,000 tons of methanol yields 387 tons of gasoline, 46 tons of LPG or propane, 7 tons of fuel gas and 560 tons of water. The water is recycled as process water.

Uhde who licensed and participated with ExxonMobil in the German pilot has completed contracts and begun installation of a facility with Shanxi Jincheng Anthracite Coal Mining Co. Ltd. at Jincheng, Shanxi Province, China. This new facility is in the pilot plant stage and includes a fluidized bed hard coal gasification plant. The Chinese plan is to be on line in 2008 with an annual gasoline production of about 36,750,000 gallons (Over 100,000 gallons daily).

The issues about the emissions of CO2 is limited to the yield product’s use in the US and simply unknown in the China installation. The use of coal reformed onto liquid fuels is a matter that offers in the US, a scenario that has emissions from a high quality fuel in consumer use with the CO2 from the processing going to deep oil reservoirs. That makes the matter of coal to liquid fuels a highly attractive means to improve the US liquid fuel supply.

The ExxonMobil technology is in competition with the Fischer-Tropsch technology used in commercial quantities beginning in the 1930s and refined until today. ExxonMobil and Uhde have provided the link to a pdf download that explores their technology and compares it to the two common Fischer-Tropsch processes.

These announcements are useful news in a world where oil has been priced up for a number of reasons not directly related to oil production and consumption. While there might be concern that CO2 emissions will be increased in coal to liquid fuels, the technology exists and is being put to work that can supply the fuels with little or no increase in emissions and the CO2 put to good use.


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