Synthetic oils from Coal

Out of OPEC as a net importer of petroleum, Indonesia began to turn to coal, whose numbers are still relatively abundant. The use of coal not only in solid form to generate steam power plants, but also melted into synthetic petroleum substitute for diesel fuel.

The use of coal for automotive actually been done centuries ago on the locomotive, which since the invention of the steam engine. However, its use does not grow because the fuel is polluting and less practical.

Meanwhile, the use of petroleum is more promising and prospective at the time. However, with oil prices skyrocketing in recent years, the use of coal began to be visited again. Potential coal reserves in Indonesia touted reached 36.3 billion tons, but mostly, namely 85.2 percent, lower quality, also called lignite coal.

Unfortunately, coal-value low heating is not economical transportation. Therefore, thought to use it in the mouth of the mine as plants or liquefied at the mine site. With the thawing techniques, coal is used as fuel for motor vehicles and can reduce pollution. “Liquefaction of coal is an effort to increase the economic value of coal low that it can be marketed commercially as synthetic oils,” explains Martin Djamin, the expert staff of the Minister of State for Research and Technology Sector Alternative Energy and Renewable in the Seminar “Rusnas Development of New and Renewable Energy”, Monday (11/8) in Jakarta.

Coal liquefaction is one way to achieve the national target of energy mix by 2025 to ensure the availability of energy to the national interest. In that year, amounting to 2 percent of energy needs supplied by liquid coal. The process of coal liquefaction Compared with oil, coal molecular weight greater than oil and a hydrogen-containing fewer, but more oxygen, sulfur, and nitrogen rather than oil. Therefore, coal has less energy density than oil.

Therefore, coal is converted into clean fuel with higher energy densities by separating the sulfur and nitrogen and improve the content of hydrogen. Coal liquefaction is done by changing the form of coal ash have been free to be heated to 450 degrees Celsius and a pressure of 180 bar (unit of air pressure). Liquid product from the autoclave is separated by vacuum distillation equipment, explained SD Sumbogo M, Team Leader of Coal Liquefaction Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology (BPPT). Heavy liquid distillation fraction and then extracted with a solvent for further separation of fractions.

Solid fuel that can be converted into a heavy fraction oil, medium, and light, to fuel cars and airplanes. Coal liquefaction technologies that have made energy development agency of Japan (NEDO), a few decades ago. However, the technology was first introduced by F Bergius, a German chemist who obtained a patent production of liquid fuels from coal using hydrogen addition to coal in 1913.

Referring to his experience, NEDO then work with BPPT for the same thing started in 1993. The study focused on the utilization of coal samples Indonesia from Tanjung Enim (South Sumatra), Cerenti (Riau), and East Kalimantan. Testing and analysis performed in the laboratory of coal liquefaction in the Laboratory of Energy Resources (LSDE), Pusppitek Serpong, and in the Laboratory of Nippon Brown Coal Liquefaction (NBCL).

The pilot plant initial evaluation shows that the coal in South Banko best to liquefaction process with the result of more than 70 percent oil by weight. The terms of the technology, explained Martin, coal liquefaction has been proven successful in laboratory scale. From the development of coal liquefaction technique has generated a patent catalyst for the process called limonite. The patent is jointly owned BPPT and NEDO.

The next phase is the development of a liquefaction plant on a larger scale, to the commercial level. In this case being prepared design and engineering pilot plant with a capacity of 6,000 tonnes per day. However, because construction costs are very high, reaching 1.3 billion US dollars, BPPT in 2005 had proposed the construction of the plant capacity of 3,000 tonnes per day, with the funds needed around 800 million US dollars.

According to the calculations, said Martin, despite absorbing relatively large fund, the plant’s coal liquefaction can produce synthetic petroleum products price competitive and profitable. The selling price of coal to synthetic oil plant with a capacity of 3,000 tonnes per day was 29.3 US dollars-33.4 US dollars per barrel. Construction of the plant with a capacity of 3,000 tonnes per day was actually agreed to be funded by the Bank of Japan, JEBIC.

However, the plan has not been realized due to the Japanese request assurances from the Indonesian government technology. This, according to Martin, clearly incriminating Indonesia because if the plant fails, must be fully borne by Indonesia. As a middle road will be proposed technology guarantee borne by both parties.

With the implementation of a coal liquefaction plant development, Indonesia will be one of the pioneering application of new technologies direct coal liquefaction. During this time, indirect coal liquefaction called Sasol has been developed by South Africa. Sasol’s technology application, Indonesia also offer cooperation with the African country.

Source ( Friday, August 15, 2008 edition

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