Researchers develop cleaner process for liquefied coal

Researchers at the Menlo Park-based SRI International believe they have developed a process that could effectively eliminate the carbon emissions from the liquefaction of coal into fuel. 

Particularly in the coal-rich U.S., coal-based fuels have always been popular because of the low costs associated with the raw materials, the primary driver behind coal-fired generation in the U.S. 

However, Technology Review reports that the traditional methods of liquefaction rely on combinations of oxygen, steam and coal that require substantial amounts of water and the combustion of some of the coal.
SRI addresses this issue by using methane heated to 600 degrees Celsius, potentially using carbon-neutral sources of electricity. This method dramatically limits the need for water and eliminates the need for combustion. 

These liquid coal-based fuels would be designed for use in automobiles and other small-scale forms of transportation. However, if successfully scaled to production level, which many doubt is possible, the technology could have substantial consequences for coal-fired power plants that would suddenly have to compete with the massive transportation sector. 

Further information on the development of cleaner coals can be found at PennEnergy's Research area.

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