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Keywords:

  • process synthesis;
  • flow sheet design;
  • carbon dioxide emission reduction;
  • Fischer-Tropsch synthesis;
  • systems analysis

The energy needs of the world continue to grow, as does the resulting environmental impact. Policy makers continue to call for alternative energies to replace today's petroleum-based liquid fuels. However, liquid fuels have significant advantages, and it is probably unwise to abandon the existing infrastructure without appropriately exploring alternatives to lessen the environmental burden of producing liquid fuels. Biomass and coal are often proposed as alternatives to petroleum-based carbon sources, but those processes lose a significant amount of their potential product to unwanted carbon dioxide emissions. However, combining biomass and coal with cleaner natural gas yields processes with less environmental impact to produce liquid fuels with small, zero, or even negative carbon dioxide emissions. Our process synthesis approach is applied to commonly encountered liquid fuel production methods to identify promising routes and to establish feasibility limits on those less promising alternatives. © 2013 American Institute of Chemical Engineers AIChE J, 59: 2062–2078, 2013