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Environ Sci Technol. 2008 Oct 15;42(20):7559-65.

Comparative analysis of the production costs and life-cycle GHG emissions of FT liquid fuels from coal and natural gas.

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Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, Tepper School of Business, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15213-3890, USA.


Liquid transportation fuels derived from coal and natural gas could helpthe United States reduce its dependence on petroleum. The fuels could be produced domestically or imported from fossil fuel-rich countries. The goal of this paper is to determine the life-cycle GHG emissions of coal- and natural gas-based Fischer-Tropsch (FT) liquids, as well as to compare production costs. The results show that the use of coal- or natural gas-based FT liquids will likely lead to significant increases in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions compared to petroleum-based fuels. In a best-case scenario, coal- or natural gas-based FT-liquids have emissions only comparable to petroleum-based fuels. In addition, the economic advantages of gas-to-liquid (GTL) fuels are not obvious: there is a narrow range of petroleum and natural gas prices at which GTL fuels would be competitive with petroleum-based fuels. CTLfuels are generally cheaper than petroleum-based fuels. However, recent reports suggest there is uncertainty about the availability of economically viable coal resources in the United States. If the U.S. has a goal of increasing its energy security, and at the same time significantly reducing its GHG emissions, neither CTL nor GTL consumption seem a reasonable path to follow.

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