Visduh Dec. 31, 2012 @ 9:29 a.m.

About the last thing the world needs now is coal gasification. Natural gas is more abundant than any time in memory, and prices are very low. This glut of gas shows signs of persisting. So, why gasify coal? In the aftermath of the 73-74 Arab oil embargo, which was branded by the media as the "energy crisis", some major players decided that converting coal to gas had promise. A major gas utility, American Natural Gas which changed its name to American Natural Resources, sank a huge amount of capital into a coal gasification pilot plant in, I recall, Wyoming. By the early 80's it was a bust, not because it could not make gas from coal, but it could not do it cheaply enough to compete with alternative fuels, especially natural gas. ANR wrote off many millions on that one.

There's an ancient technology for making artificial gas (a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen) from coal. That's the gas that was used in the "gaslamp" era, but I doubt that these modern gasification plants employ it. For one thing, if that gas leaks, it is very dangerous because of its CO content.

As to the name chosen, it may almost be an insider joke. I can see no way to describe gas made from coal as "green." Perhaps it is just an appeal, to those who have little or no business sense, to find the idea intriguing and part with some hard-earned dollars. And it also has a certain childish charm which also might be part of a winning appeal.


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