Rentech creates synthetic fuel from natural gas and coal

Posted by Samantha Rose

Chicago (IL) – Rentech, a company that turns hydrocarbons such as coal and natural gas into alternative fuels, says it has begun producing an “ultra clean synthetic fuel”. The process is controversial, especially because coal, which is capable of emitting significant amounts of carbon dioxide when combusted, is involved.

Rentech defended the process, claiming that it is more environmentally friendly than petroleum fuel, and says that the process is also capable of converting biomass and municipal waste.

The company uses an advanced version of the Fischer Tropsch process and an iron-based catalyst to aid them in turning synthetic gas into fuel. During their demonstration in Colorado, Rentech said that is currently producing fuel from natural gas and has plans to produce 420 gallons per day of both synthetic diesel and jet fuels. Their demo plant will provide samples of the fuels to enable testing for environmental standards and requirements.

There are numerous options available for aiding in the environmental changes of transportation, but if this process is only used in an attempt to turn coal into fuel, we believe that there can be major issues. Julie Dawoodje, a spokesperson for Rentech, confirmed that one of the feedstocks for its synthetic fuel demo unit would potentially consist of coal.

Environmental groups such as the National Resources Defense Council are adamant that using coal and turning it into a liquid fuel is a not-so-great and detrimental choice in terms of greenhouse gas emissions. However, coal remains interesting for economic reasons: Coal is inexpensive and widely available. Utilizing coal to produce liquid fuel could reduce the U.S.’ dependence on imported oil from regions that are potentially unstable. The military has considered using coal to liquids as jet fuel and diesel for their long distance trucking needs for some time now.