Consider the future of coal-to-liquids technology

With some rapidly depleting natural resources, such as oil, we will face a fuel crisis in the near future if we don’t make some changes. Using a resource that is abundant on our earth but underused, like coal, could be just the change we need. The coal-to-liquid process is critical to converting the solid carbon found within our planet’s shell into a usable clean fuel. This technology could not only solve the dilemma of dwindling oil, but would also make gasoline less expensive than it currently is.

The main process used to turn carbon into a liquid is the Fischer-Tropsch method. It is an indirect liquefaction system and begins by removing impurities from the syngas created by underground coal gasification. Sulfur and mercury are just a few of the harmful substances that are removed from fuel at the end of the coal-to-liquid conversion process. The gas is then further filtered so that the product is contaminant-free gasoline or diesel. Clearly this is a benefit to the environment.

If you’ve never heard of this process, you may be wondering why. This is probably because many countries have experimented with the coal-to-liquids idea, testing its effects on the ecosystem and their budget. However, only South Africa has placed enough faith in coal-to-liquids technology to allow it to penetrate the commercial sector, and the country has been using it in some form since 1955. Consumers use its product to power their cars, and can even be used on commercial aircraft. Clearly this technology is suited to South Africa, particularly as the area has a large amount of coal. The United States also has its own reserves. In fact, the US has the largest coal reserves in the world, so its residents should be especially interested in this technology.

The future from coal to liquids is bright. In addition to the interest in reducing emissions from gasoline and lowering the costs of refueling cars, there are also concerns about the dwindling supply of natural resources needed in our current method of producing gasoline. Coal has an advantage in this case, as there are around 200 years of coal left on the planet, most of which is in the United States, followed by the former Soviet Union and China. This amount of available coal is likely to increase over the years as the technology for additional extraction is developed. Until then, the amount of coal we currently have can at least offer us the ability to lessen our dependence on oil over time.

Another reason for the likely future success of coal-to-liquids technology is that it is supported by both the military and many politicians, and with good reason. Adoption of this process would help create jobs in rural areas that are home to coal, and employees are at less risk than if they used traditional mining processes. This is because they do not have to enter any mine to extract the coal. Also, most politicians, like consumers, are concerned about the environment. Fuel derived from coal-to-liquid technology burns much cleaner than current fuels, which is why it is called clean fuel.

In general, there are few drawbacks to the coal-to-liquid process and no foreseeable problems that cannot be corrected before the process becomes the primary method of fuel production. The probable reason why it has not yet been implemented as a replacement for the current fuel is the lack of information about it among the public. Countries and even oil companies that have sufficiently looked at coal-to-liquids technology have already begun to plan for a future that depends more on coal than on our dwindling oil supply. As research into the process continues at its current pace, coal-to-liquid conversion will be the key to successfully eliminating our dependence on oil, saving us money and concern for the environment in the long run.

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