The world's first commercial natural gas-to-liquids (GTL) plants is currently being developed in Qatar by Royal Dutch/Shell. This process uses natural gas as feedstock. Coal gasification projects with a GTL plant attached is the next logical step, a development which would revolutionize oil product, natural gas and coal markets by making these hydrocarbons virtually interchangeable as sources of transportation fuels. The high cost of natural gas in the US has made it a possible site for a coal-based project.
Clean Coal Power Resources and its partners have plans to develop up to four underground mines to harvest the vast coal resources that lie untapped in the counties of Fayette and Montgomery in the Herrin #6 coal seam.
The Hillsboro mine, developed by Consol Energy in the early 1970s, was the only modern era underground coal mine in this area of the state. High levels of sulphur in the coal have left the resource pretty much untapped, until now.
In December last year Clean Coal Power Resources signed a technical service agreement with Canadian company Rentech for the latter to provide technical services to produce 190,000 barrels per day of Fischer-Tropsch liquids from the coal in Southern Illinois.
Rentech holds the rights to the patented and proprietary Fischer-Tropsch gas-to- liquids process (GTL) for conversion of synthesis gas made from natural gas, industrial off-gas, or solid or liquid carbon-bearing materials into high-value fuels and chemicals. These include clean burning, ultra-low-sulphur and ultra-low-aromatic fuels (beyond detectable limits), naphtha, waxes and fuel for fuel cells.
Phase 1 of the proposed project will cost approximately US$2.5 billion and entail: the development of a world-class coal mine; the construction of a coal gasification plant to produce clean synthesis gas from the coal to be used to generate power; and, the production of approximately 40,000 barrels per day of naphtha and ultra-low-sulphur diesel fuel using the Rentech GTL Process technology. Phase 1 of this project is tentatively scheduled to be in commercial production before the end of 2007.
The group is believed to be considering developing four longwall mines, with the first up and running in 2006, another by 2009 and a further two by 2011.
Commenting on the project last year, Dennis L. Yakobson, president and CEO of Rentech said the Clean Coal Power Resources' project provided Rentech with an opportunity to deploy its GTL technology in the United States.
“Up to this point most GTL projects have been proposed outside the US due to the need for project developers to acquire cheap natural gas as their feedstock. The Rentech process, however, is well suited for converting synthesis gas made from coal,” he said.
“CCPRI's Vandalia, Illinois project should demonstrate that new clean coal gasification technologies combined with gas-to-liquids processes can efficiently produce cleaner energy while reducing plant emissions than can conventional processes of coal fired energy production."