With some natural resources dwindling quickly, such as petroleum, we are facing a fuel crisis in the near future if we do not make some changes. Using a resource that is abundant in our earth but underused, such as coal, could be just the change we need. The coal to liquids procedure is instrumental in turning solid coal found within our planet’s shell into a usable clean fuel. Not only could this technology solve the dilemma of diminishing petroleum, but it would also make gasoline less expensive than it currently is.
The main process used when turning coal to liquids is the Fischer-Tropsch method. It is a system of indirect liquefaction, and it begins by getting rid of any impurities from the syngas created by underground coal gasification. Sulfur and mercury are just a few of the harmful substances that are taken out of the fuel at the end of the coal to liquids process. The gas is then further filtered so that the product is gasoline or diesel that is free of contaminants. Clearly this is a benefit to the environment.
If you have never heard of this process, you might wonder why. It is likely because many countries have experimented with the idea of coal to liquids, testing out its effects on the ecosystem and their budget. However, only South Africa has put enough faith in coal to liquids technology to allow it to permeate the commercial sector, and the country has been using it in some form since 1955. Consumers use its product to fuel their cars, and it can even be used in commercial jets. Clearly, this technology suits South Africa, particularly because the area has an abundance of coal. The United States has its own reserves as well. In fact, the US has the largest reserves of coal in the world, which is why its residents should be especially interested in this technology.
The future of coal to liquids is bright. Aside from the interest in lowering emissions from gasoline and decreasing the costs of fueling up cars, there is also concern over the diminishing supply of the natural resources necessary in our current method of gasoline production. Coal has an advantage in this case, as there are about 200 years of coal left in the planet, most of which is in the United States, followed by the former Soviet Union and China. This amount of available coal will likely increase over the years as the technology for additional extraction is created. Until then, the amount of coal we currently have can at least offer the ability for us to lessen our reliance on oil over time.
Another reason for the likely future success of coal to liquids technology is that it has the support of both the military and many politicians, and rightly so. The adoption of this process would help create jobs in rural areas that house coal, and employees are less at risk than if they used traditional mining processes. This is because they do not have to enter any mines to extract the coal. Furthermore, most politicians, like consumers, are concerned about the environment. The fuel derived from coal to liquids technology burns much cleaner than current fuels, which is why it is referred to as a clean fuel.
Overall, there are few drawbacks to the coal to liquids process, and no foreseeable issues that cannot be corrected before the process becomes the mainstream method of obtaining fuel. The likely reason it has not already been implemented as a replacement for current fuel is the lack of information about it among the public. The countries and even oil companies that have looked into the coal to liquids technology enough have already begun planning a future that is more dependent on coal than our dwindling oil supply. As long as research on the process continues at its current rate, coal to liquids will be the key to successfully eliminating our dependence on oil, which will save us money and concern for the environment in the long run.