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Potential for Coal-to-Liquids Conversion in the U.S.-Resource Base

Abstract

By applying the multi-Hubbert curve analysis to coal production in the United States, we demonstrate that anthracite production can be modeled with a single Hubbert curve that extends to the practical end of commercial production of this highest-rank coal. The production of bituminous coal from existing mines is about 80% complete and can be carried out at the current rate for the next 20 years. The production of subbituminous coal from existing mines can be carried out at the current rate for 40–45 years. Significant new investment to extend the existing mines and build new ones would have to commence in 2009 to sustain the current rate of coal production, 1 billion tons per year, in 2029. In view of the existing data, we conclude that there is no spare coal production capacity of the size required for massive coal conversion to liquid transportation fuels. Our analysis is independent of other factors that will prevent large-scale coal liquefaction projects: the inefficiency of the process and either emissions of greenhouse gases or energy cost of sequestration.

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Notes

  1. Defined in the next section.

  2. About Coal, America’s most abundant energy resource and a source of chemicals, fertilizer, and power worldwide, www.clean-energy.us/facts/coal.htm.

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Acknowledgments

Greg Croft has been supported by 2 years of Jane Lewis Fellowship from U.C. Berkeley. We would like to thank the reviewers for their very helpful remarks that greatly improved the article.

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Correspondence to Tad W. Patzek.

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Croft, G.D., Patzek, T.W. Potential for Coal-to-Liquids Conversion in the U.S.-Resource Base. Nat Resour Res 18, 173–180 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11053-009-9097-x

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Keywords

  • Hubbert curve
  • production
  • history
  • reserves
  • coal ranks