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Southern Research Institute Wins $1.5 Million Dept. of Energy Award to Economically Produce Liquid Fuels from Coal and Biomass Mixtures

January 7, 2013

Research could make new alternative coal fuel processes more environmentally and economically competitive with petroleum-based processes

DURHAM, North Carolina—(January 7, 2013)—Southern Research Institute today announced it has entered into a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Dept. of Energy to test an innovative method for producing liquid transportation fuels from coal and biomass thereby improving the economics and lifecycle impacts of coal-to-liquid (CTL) and coal-biomass-to-liquid (CBTL) processes. The novel approach eliminates the typical Fischer-Tropsch (FT) product upgrading and refining steps and enhances the ability of CTL and CBTL processes to compete with petroleum-based processes.

“We hope the project will advance CTL and CBTL processes by demonstrating a cost-effective, novel FT catalyst that selectively converts syngas derived from the gasification of coal and coal-biomass mixtures predominantly to gasoline and diesel range hydrocarbons, thereby eliminating expensive upgrading operations,” said Dr. Santosh K. Gangwal, Southern Research principal investigator. “We will evaluate the impact of adding moderate amounts of biomass to coal on CBTL products and process economics, and compare the carbon footprint of CBTL processes with petroleum-based fuel production processes.”

The Southern Research team includes research partners from Southern Company Services and Nexant Inc. The project will implement a full coal and coal-biomass to liquids bench-scale FT synthesis reactor system to produce liquid transportation fuels using the selective, wax-free FT catalyst provided by Chevron. Gangwal says the research team will use an existing demonstration scale coal gasifier at the DOE’s National Carbon Capture Center (NCCC) in Wilsonville, Ala.—an air-blown transport gasifier (also known as TRIGTM) operated by Southern Company Services—as the source of both coal and coal-biomass derived syngas.

“If successful in reducing the production costs and environmental impact of alternative fuel processes , this project could lead to commercialization of CBTL processes, resulting in a decrease in U.S. dependence on foreign oil, new jobs, and reduced fuel prices at the pump,” said Tim Hansen, Director, Advanced Energy and Transportation Technologies.

About Southern Research

Southern Research Institute is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) scientific research organization that conducts advanced engineering research in materials, systems development, environment and energy, and preclinical drug discovery and development. Southern Research has more than 520 scientific and engineering staff that support clients and partners in the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, defense, aerospace, environmental and energy industries. Headquartered in Birmingham, Ala., Southern Research Institute has facilities/offices in Wilsonville and Huntsville, Ala.; Frederick, Md.; Durham, NC; New Orleans, La.; Houston, TX; and, Washington, DC.

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