CCS and Power Systems

Advanced Energy Systems - Coal and Coal/Biomass to Liquids


Coal Fuels Alliance: Design and Construction of Early Lead Mini Fischer-Tropsch Refinery


Performer: University of Kentucky Center for Applied Energy Research (CAER)

Project No: NT0005988


Project Scope and Technology Readiness Level


The original focus of this project was to design and construct a mini Fischer-Tropsch (FT) refinery utilizing a steam methane reformer. With an early design change, researchers decided to replace the steam methane reformer with a coal-fueled gasifier with a gas separation and clean-up system that would be compatible with an existing FT reactor at the University of Kentucky Center for Applied Energy Research (CAER) site. The processing equipment is designed to be interchangeable, where organizations can easily switch components to test novel technologies at a small pilot scale. This will multiply the utility of the Coal/Biomass to Liquid (CBTL) process development unit (PDU) to the community of researchers.

CAER will focus on environmental considerations, particularly management and reduction of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from CBTL facilities and fuel use. The unit is being designed with the following capacities:

  • Fischer-Tropsch design capacity: 1.0 BPD
  • Fluid Catalytic Cracking design capacity: 0.5 BPD
  • Hydrocracking design capacity: 0.2 BPD
  • Dehydrogenation design capacity: 0.17 BPD
  • Alkylation design capacity: 0.17 BPD

University of Kentucky is a member of the Coal Fuels Alliance (CFA), a university partnership to support complementary and joint research focusing on applied and developmental needs for production of liquid fuels from coal. The CFA member institutions also work together to build human capital—the future generation of skilled energy technologists, engineers, and operating personnel that will be needed to sustain the CBTL industry. One of the best ways to create this skills base is to stimulate and fund research and development at appropriate institutions that have the facilities to teach and train students in practical science and engineering applications. The CBTL PDU envisioned at CAER will be used for such training and labor force development.

The Technology Readiness Level (TRL) assessment identifies the current state of readiness of the key technologies being developed under the DOE's Clean Coal Research Program. In FY 12, this project was assessed a TRL of 3.

The TRL assessment process and its results including definition and description of the levels may be found in the "2012 Technology Readiness Assessment-Analysis of Active Research Portfolio".


Project Details