UK Expands to Perform Research on Future Fuels from Coal and Biomass


Video by UK Research Communications. Closed captioning available.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Nov. 8, 2011) — Congressmen Geoff Davis and Hal Rogers were on hand today for the groundbreaking of a UK coal/biomass-to-liquids unit that could lead to development of vehicle fuels made from Kentucky coal and biomass. (Click here to see the full video of the news conference.)

[IMAGE2]The $5.7 million facility at the UK Center for Applied Energy Research (CAER) could produce transportation fuels from these indigenous resources, which could help guarantee the nation's energy future. The unit will also focus on state-of-the art technologies to improve efficiency and reduce the amount of carbon dioxide created when converting coal and biomass to liquid fuels. The gasification unit will be capable of producing one barrel of fuel per day.

"Our future is under our feet. By encouraging and expanding the development of coal use technology, we can attain greater energy independence, reinvigorate our economy, and create new jobs, right here at home," said Congressman Hal Rogers. "I'm proud to join Congressman Davis and the University of Kentucky to celebrate this expansion of coal and biomass-to-liquids research."

"Coal-to-liquid technology has the potential to provide our nation with a reliable source of safe and affordable fuel and to help reduce our dependence on foreign energy," said Congressman Geoff Davis. "Our abundant natural resources combined with the leadership of the University of Kentucky and the Center for Applied Energy Research on developing this technology could bring enormous economic benefits including significant job growth to the Commonwealth."

Funding for the process-development unit includes support by the U.S. Department of Energy ($4.55 million), the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet ($708,000), and a UK cost share ($453,000).

"The importance of using our abundant, affordable coal and biomass resources to meet growing energy needs, both for electricity and transportation, cannot be overstated," said Governor Steve Beshear. "The Commonwealth provided funding support for this research because it furthers key strategies in my comprehensive energy plan.  Additionally, the Kentucky General Assembly is to be commended for its leadership in promoting coal/biomass-to-liquids research and development."

"A key benefit of this unit is that it can be used as a test-bed for new concepts at an affordable level," said Rodney Andrews, director of CAER and the project's principal investigator. "Our goal is to develop facilities and personnel to sustain a synthetic fuels industry in Kentucky."

Researchers will evaluate the commercial and technical viability of advanced technologies to produce fuels by the Fischer-Tropsch method, a long-established way of converting petroleum substitutes into transportation fuels, via gasification.

By installing a coal/biomass gasifier that can be tuned to supply the energy center's existing reactors, it makes use of 30 years of expertise gleaned by CAER's fuel processing researchers. This will be an open-access facility, whose findings will be in the public domain to aid the wider scientific and industrial community. Environmental considerations, particularly how to manage and reduce carbon dioxide emissions from these plants, will be a primary objective of the research.

Click here to view a PDF that illustrates the process.

"Energy independence is an absolute must if this nation hopes to remain globally competitive," said UK President Eli Capilouto.  "UK and our Center for Applied Energy Research are leading the way with ground-breaking technologies that will test the potential of finding new and environmentally sustainable ways of converting coal/biomass to fuel. One of our chief missions at UK is attacking the challenges that confront our Commonwealth and our nation. No challenge looms larger than energy security. At UK, we are working with our partners in Washington and in Frankfort to find solutions."

MEDIA CONTACT: Jenny Wells, (859) 257-5343;