WVU experts meet with Chinese coal-to-liquids leaders

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January 15, 2009 by WVUToday

Morgantown, W.Va.—Seven officials from China’s leading research and corporate energy organizations met today with West Virginia University faculty and U.S. Department of Energy and National Energy Technology Laboratory leaders to discuss advances in converting coal to transportation fuels while capturing and storing carbon dioxide emissions.

The meeting was organized by the U.S. China Energy Center, a program of the National Research Center for Coal and Energy (NRCCE) at WVU. The Shenhua Group in China is developing the world’s first commercial direct coal liquefaction (DCL) plant in northwestern China at a cost of about $1.5 billion. With support from the U.S. Department of Energy, WVU and Shenhua Group have been evaluating the economic and environmental impacts of the DCL technology.

While commercial coal to liquids processes exist, those processes are known as indirect

Elliot Kennel, Chemical Engineering professor, describes for Wu Xiuzhang, deputy chief engineer at the Shenhua Group, the process developed at WVU to convert coal to liquid at low temperature and pressure, translating to higher cost. WVU and Shenhua met under a DOE agreement to share expertise.

Elliot Kennel (L), Chemical Engineering professor, describes for Wu Xiuzhang (R), deputy chief engineer at the Shenhua Group, the process developed at WVU to convert coal to liquid at low temperature and pressure, translating to higher cost. WVU and Shenhua met under a DOE agreement to share expertise.

coal liquefaction and require breaking down coal into molecules of carbon monoxide and hydrogen which are building blocks that are then processed into diesel fuel. Direct coal liquefaction processes attempt to bypass the breakdown of the coal into such small molecules to make liquid fuels directly.

Jerald Fletcher is director of the U.S. China Energy Center at WVU. He and research assistant professor Qingyun Sun of the Natural Resource Analysis Center at WVU will be assessing the economic and environmental impacts of the plant and analyzing the technology transition. Information gained by the researchers will be shared with those in the U.S. to help promote the transfer clean coal technologies.

“Converting coal to transportation fuels in an environmentally safe way requires knowledge from many different kinds of experts,” Fletcher said. “Faculty from the departments of Chemical Engineering, Geology and Geography, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, and Resource Management have been part of an agreement to discuss various aspects of coal to liquids with our guests.”

WVU has been working with the U.S. Department of Energy and the China National Development and Reform Commission under an agreement known as the Protocol on Cooperation in the Field of Fossil Energy Technology Development and Utilization since 2002.

“Even with oil at about $40 per barrel we need to consider the long-term ability to provide a sufficient source of liquid fuels on a global scale, including alternative means such as coal to liquids,” Lowell Miller, director, of the US DOE Office of Sequestration, Hydrogen, and Clean Coal Fuels said. “Under our agreement, we’re helping the Chinese acquire environmental expertise on carbon dioxide capture and storage to address climate concerns. The Chinese are helping us gain economic and environmental data and operating experience in regard to building and running a novel coal to liquids plant not seen before. This information could be very helpful to the U.S. if we were ever to build a similar plant here,” Miller said. Wu Xiuzhang, deputy chief engineer for the Shenhua Group is leading the delegation from China. He said, “cooperation between the U.S. and China, and especially with West Virginia University, is very valuable and has been very successful so far.”

U.S. experts said that the Shenhua Direct Coal Liquefaction plant will likely be well suited to a large-scale international-class carbon capture and storage project. Fletcher and his colleagues, WVU professor Tim Carr and Julio Friedman of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, noted that the Ordos basin in China, where the plant is under construction, has the geological resources necessary to support a sequestration project.

Chinese participants included:

  • Wu Xiuzhang, deputy chief engineer, Shenhua Group;
  • Ren Xiangkun, vice president, Beijing Research Institute, China Shenhua Coal to Liquid & Chemical Co., Ltd.;
  • Zhang Yousheng, deputy director, Energy Research Institute, China National Development and Reform Commission;
  • Bu Xuepeng, branch director, Beijing Research Institute, China Shenhua Coal to Liquid & Chemical Co., Ltd.;
  • Cui Yongjun, senior engineer, Beijing Research Institute, China Shenhua Coal to Liquid & Chemical Co., Ltd.;
  • Tan Yongjie, chief engineer, Development and Research Center, China Geological Survey; Zhang Jiaqiang, professor, Development and Research Center, China Geological Survey; and
  • Sheng Jie, senior translator, China Shenhua Coal to Liquid & Chemical Co., Ltd.

WVU participants included:

  • Richard Bajura, director, National Research Center for Coal and Energy
  • Jerald Fletcher, professor, Div. of Resource Management and director, U.S. China Energy Center
  • Tim Carr, Marshall Miller Professor, Dept. of Geology and Geography
  • Elliot Kennel, research professor and John Zondlo, professor, Dept. of Chemical Engineering
  • Curt Peterson, vice president, Office of Research
  • Nigel Clark, professor and Hailin Li, assistant professor, Dept. of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
  • Doug Patchen, director, Petroleum Technology Transfer Center at NRCCE and chief geologist, West Virginia Geologic and Economic Survey
  • Tim Phipps, professor and director and Mark Sperow, associate professor, Div. of Resource Management
  • Graduate students Marc Mulkey, Chali Nondo, and Hui Su of the Div. of Resource Management and Guochang Wang of the Dept. of Geology and Geography

 

U.S. DOE participants included:

    U.S. DOE Office of Sequestration, Hydrogen, and Clean Coal Fuels

  • Lowell Miller, director
  • Mark Ackiewicz, program manager
    National Energy Technology Laboratory

  • Daniel Cicero, technology manager
  • Venkat Venkataraman, program manager
  • Dawn Deel, program manager
  • George Guthrie, focus area leader
  • Erik Shuster, engineer
  • Maria Vargas, deputy director
  • Margaret Lou, deputy director
    Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

  • Julio Friedman, carbon and international programs

 

Advanced Resources International, Inc. participants included:

  • George Koperna

 

NRCCE