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Coal-to-Liquids: viability as a peak oil mitigation strategy
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Earth Sciences, Department of Earth Sciences, Global Energy Systems. (Global Energy Systems)ORCID iD: 0000-0002-6379-7104
Moscow State University. (Moscow School of Economics)
Post Peak Living.
University of Liverpool. (Management School)
2012 (English)In: Twenty Ninth Annual International Pittsburgh Coal Conference, 2012Conference paper, Presentation (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Converting coal to a liquid, commonly known as coal-to-liquids (CTL), can supply liquid fuels and has been successfully used in several countries, particularly in South Africa. However, it has not become a major contributor to the global oil supply. Increasing awareness of the scarcity of oil and rising oil prices has increased the interest in coal liquefaction. This paper surveys CTL technology, economics and environmental performance. Understanding the fundamental aspects of coal liquefaction technologies is vital for planning and policy-making since future CTL production will be integrated in a much larger global energy and liquid fuel production system.

The economic analysis shows that many CTL studies assume conditions that are optimistic at best. In addition, the strong risk for a CTL plant to become a financial black hole is highlighted. This helps to explain why China has recently slowed down the development of its CTL program.

The technical analysis investigates the coal consumption of CTL. Generally, a yield of between 1–2 barrels/ton coal can be achieved while the technical limit seems to be 3 barrels/ton coal. This puts a strict limit on future CTL capacity imposed by future coal production, regardless of other factors such as economic viability, emissions or environmental concern. For example, assuming that 10% of world coal production can be diverted to CTL, the contribution to the liquid fuel supply will be limited to only a few million barrels per day (Mb/d). This prevents CTL from becoming a viable mitigation plan for liquid fuel shortage on a global scale.

However, it is still possible for individual nations to derive a significant share of their fuel supply from CTL but those nations must also have access to equally significant coal production capacity. It is unrealistic to claim that CTL provides a feasible solution to liquid fuels shortages created by peak oil. At best, it can be only a minor contributor and must be combined with other strategies to ensure future liquid fuel supply.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Keyword [en]
Coal liquefaction, CTL, coal-to-liquids
National Category
Energy Systems Environmental Management Other Civil Engineering Other Earth and Related Environmental Sciences Geosciences, Multidisciplinary
Research subject
Engineering Science with specialization in the Science of Global Energy Resources
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-178209OAI: diva2:542277
Twenty-Ninth International Pittsburgh Coal Conference, October 15 - 18, 2012, Pittsburgh, USA
StandUp for energy
Proceeding avaliable on CD-ROM only.Available from: 2012-07-31 Created: 2012-07-31 Last updated: 2015-01-08Bibliographically approved

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Höök, Mikael
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