Medicine Bow Methanol Project, United States of America

The Medicine Bow methanol project is part of a coal-to-liquid fuels initiative undertaken by the Medicine Bow Fuel & Power (MBF&P), a subsidiary of DKRW Advanced Fuels. The new methanol synthesis unit will be situated at a greenfield site near a producing mine mouth in Carbon County, Wyoming. The low-sulphur coal feedstock will be used to produce both methanol and gasoline via synthesis gas and Fisher Tropsch type process technology.

In February 2009, the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) permitted the company for industrial siting of the plant

Medicine Bow Fuel is also developing other coal to liquids and diesel facilities in the same area as part of the project as there is an abundance of economically mined low sulphur coal as feedstock. An 11,000 barrel per day (bpd) coal-to-ultra-clean diesel unit was developed from 2006.

Construction of the plant is expected to begin in 2011 and commercial operations will begin in 2014. The new plant is expected to produce 20,000bpd to 22,000bpd of ultra-pure gasoline. The project is expected to create 2,300 jobs during construction and about 450 full time jobs during operation.

DKRW Advanced Fuels is a process development-stage hydrocarbon conversion company, which is focused on the commercial development and operation of facilities to convert low value hydrocarbons into upgraded fuel and chemical products that have previously been produced by crude oil. The coal feedstock is being provided by Arch Coal who is a shareholder of DKRW Advanced Fuels and an advocate for coal to liquid fuel technologies.

The mine is expected to have reserves of 180Mt of coal.

Process technology

The new Wyoming methanol plant is expected to produce 6,260t of methanol per day when it comes on-stream in 2014. The advanced methanol process technology for the new plant is being supplied by Davy Process Technology and Johnson Matthey Catalysts; both companies are part of the Process Technologies Business of Johnson Matthey.

The project includes the supply of a methanol technology licence and the basic engineering design of the plant. The new plant will transform carbon basin coal into methanol and then into clean gasoline for the US domestic market.

Methanol to gasoline

In December 2007 Medicine Bow Fuel and Power contracted Exxon Mobil Corporation to use their proprietary Methanol to Gasoline (MTG) process technology to work in conjunction with the methanol plant to produce high grade gasoline from the crude methanol produced. The new 22,000bpd unit will be based on the proven ExxonMobil MTG process technology which has been used since the 1990s.

The MTG process will convert the methanol produced directly into low sulphur and low benzene gasoline. This can then be marketed directly or blended with refinery produced gasoline. The gasoline will inherently have low emissions of SOx and NOx because of its synthetic process origins. The technology is being adapted for the Medicine Bow project by EMRE the research and engineering arm of ExxonMobil Corporation.

"The new Wyoming methanol plant is expected to be producing 6,260t per day when it comes on-stream in 2014."

Coal-to-diesel project

This part of the project is already underway in Carbon County and will use technology from several providers including: GE Gasification Technology patented and proprietary coal gasification technology and Rentech, of Denver Fischer Tropsch technology.

The FEED study for the project was conducted by SNC-Lavalin which will also be responsible for the overall project management services.

The diesel produced will be taken and marketed by Sinclair Oil Corporation.

There will be a surplus of clean power produced at the plant, amounting to around 45MW in the initial phases and this will be sold to local electricity suppliers. Carbon dioxide will be sequestered via pipeline, sulphur will be solidified and sold to the agricultural market, hydrogen may also be produced from surplus syn gas.

DKRW expects to utilise the world's abundant coal reserves along with key technologies to produce new, reliable and more environmentally friendly energy supplies.