Recent Progress in the Direct Liquefaction of Coal

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Science  19 Feb 1988:
Vol. 239, Issue 4842, pp. 873-877
DOI: 10.1126/science.239.4842.873


Interest in direct coal liquefaction steadily decreased during the 1980s as the price of crude oil dropped; there is now only one integrated coal liquefaction pilot plant active full time in the United States. The economics derived early in the decade established the price of transportation fuels from coal at $80 per barrel or higher. However, there have been dramatic improvements in the technology since 1983 that have not been widely appreciated. Recent designs and cost estimates show that a 60 percent decrease in the cost of liquid fuels from coal to an equivalent of $35 per barrel for crude oil. Although this cost is not low enough to justify immediate commercialization, additional improvements have been identified that could make direct liquefaction an attractive way to produce gasoline and other conventional fuels.