State money for coal-to-jet fuel study

    A Texas company has won a grant from Pennsylvania to design the first-of-its-kind facility that would use coal to create jet fuel.

    A Texas company has won a grant to design the first-of-its-kind facility that would use coal to create jet fuel. The plant would be built here in Pennsylvania. From WHYY’s health and science desk, Kerry Grens has more on how it works.
    (Photo: Flickr/cmiper)

    Turning solid coal into liquid fuel is a relatively old technology — but one that produces a lot of carbon dioxide in the process. Tim Vail, president of Accelergy Corporation, says the company has developed a method that releases less carbon dioxide as the coal is liquified.

    Vail: And then this project takes it one step further in that we will actually have an algae, what we call a photobioreactor, a way to take the CO2, grow algae and produce more oil or more jet fuel on the back end through the growth of this algae.

    The algae sucks up the CO2, and gets recycled back into the process. Vail says the final product can be used by the Air Force, which has a goal to use fuels with smaller carbon footprints.

    Pennsylvania gave Accelergy $175,000 to conduct a budget and cost estimate of building a plant here. But not everyone is welcoming the company’s business.

    Minott: We should not be using tax payer money and subsidies to look for new uses for coal. It just doesn’t make any sense.

    Joe Minott is the executive director of the Clean Air Council. He says this process still ends up with a final product that burns coal for energy. Something he says is neither clean, nor alternative. Minott would rather see the state invest in wind power, solar energy or in energy conservation.

    Tim Vail at Accelergy says the state will ultimately provide $10 million to build the country’s first coal and biomass to liquids facility.

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