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UK Receives DOE Research Contract
to Develop Technology to Produce
Transportation Fuel from Domestic Resources

By George Lewis

Photo of Naresh Shah
Naresh Shah, associate research professor of the University of Kentucky Consortium for Fossil Fuel Science, prepares a model powered by a fuel cell that runs on stored hydrogen.

photo by George Lewis

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UK Professor Gerald Huffman, director of the consortium, said that recent research indicates that C1 chemistry will soon be able to produce ultra-clean gasoline and diesel fuel from coal and natural gas at a price per gallon that is competitive with the cost of transportation fuel produced from oil.

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Lexington, Ky. (Nov. 18, 2002) -- Research at the University of Kentucky is hastening the day when transportation vehicles operate cleanly and more efficiently, and oil instability and rising gasoline prices are no longer recurring themes of everyday American life.

Reaching a milestone in that research today, the UK Consortium for Fossil Fuel Science announced a new $5.7 million research contract awarded by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Office of Fossil Energy, through the National Energy Technology Laboratory. The contract will enable the consortium to continue research on C1 chemistry, which refers to the conversion of natural gas and synthesis gas produced from coal into clean, high-quality gasoline, diesel fuel, jet fuel, and hydrogen, which will be used in vehicles of the future that will be powered by fuel cells.

Addressing the gathering at the news conference, UK President Lee T. Todd Jr. cited the strong support of the entire Kentucky congressional delegation in acquisition of the contract, particularly Sen. Mitch McConnell, Sen. Jim Bunning, Congressman Ernie Fletcher and Congressman Hal Rogers.

UK Professor Gerald Huffman, director of the consortium, said that recent research indicates that C1 chemistry will soon be able to produce ultra-clean gasoline and diesel fuel from coal and natural gas at a price per gallon that is competitive with the cost of transportation fuel produced from oil. Commercialization of this technology in the United States should begin within the next five to 10 years, he said. This could not only produce a tremendous economic boom in coal-producing states, but also improve the nation's security by relieving America's dependence on oil imports from the Middle East, he said.

Representing the DOE at today's news conference, John Winslow, manager of the U.S. Department of Energy Natural Energy Testing Lab in Pittsburgh, Penn., spoke of the significance of the grant and the research that will result.

"Our nation's steadily increasing reliance on imported oil -- both crude and finished product -- makes it very important to utilize and diversify our domestic resources to the greatest extent possible, and this includes coal. We need to do this until we reach that 'holy grail,' so to speak, or that ultimate goal of producing hydrogen from water."

Powering cars and trucks with fuel cells is desirable because they use pure hydrogen as fuel and produce only clean water as emissions.

The consortium is developing C1 chemistry processes to produce pure hydrogen from natural gas or from liquid fuels produced from coal. In addition to pure hydrogen, carbon nanotubes are produced as a valuable by-product.

UK leads the consortium, which is comprised of faculty and students from five universities who are working on common goals in fossil energy science. The other consortium members are West Virginia and Auburn universities and the universities of Pittsburgh and Utah. Those schools will share the grant money with UK.


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