Clean Fuels from Coal Gasification

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Science  19 Apr 1974:
Vol. 184, Issue 4134, pp. 340-346
DOI: 10.1126/science.184.4134.340


The quickest way to establish a visible new margin against energy demand is the historic producer serving small industry and gasifying Pennsylvania anthracite. In 2 years many producers could be in operation.

The quickest way to obtain significant supplies of "new" gas or oil is to retrofit existing electricity and industrial boilers for power or industrial gas. Important results could be achieved in 6 years.

Table 3 identifies development activities deserving high priority to speed the capture of gas and oil now burned in boilers, and to speed realization the advantages of combined-cycle equipment running on coal (8).

Obviously, these activities are not enough. Many exciting and worthwhile concepts at various stages of development can furnish improved techniques for converting coal to pipeline gas and liquid fuels for the long run. Reviews of these concepts are available (6, 32, 35). I have neglected them in this article not to deny their importance but to stress the earlier opportunities from technology that is ready now, or nearly ready.

The oil and gas industries might well consider the historical progression from Wells Fargo to Western Union to American Telephone and Telegraph to Radio Corporation of America. These industries will miss the boat if they regard themselves simply as purveyors of their historical fuels and not as purveyors of clean energy. The gas industry especially will be in trouble if it lets its major industrial customers, such as steel and electricity, provide their own supplies of power and industrial gas.