New method to obtain cheap natural gas from coal

GreatPoint, a company made by three enterpreneurs from Boston (Andrew Perlman, Avi Goldberg and Aaron Mandell) has announced that they have created a cheap method to obtain natural gas from coal. Obtaining gas from coal (called syngas) is not the latest technology around: At the end of the 19th century, many cities had gas lights and Germany had syngas-powered vehicles from the '20s until the end of WWII. During the Oil crisis in the '70s, the US Government funded research, until syngas became non-competitive against oil prices.
Nevertheless, syngas is not the cleanest fuel you can burn and it's not very efficient to obtain. GreatPoint claims that their method goes even further and can transform syngas into natural gas by using catalysts (possibly potassium) which also allow to use lower temperatures for the process. Natural gas is much cleaner and it's a proven and reliable source of energy, and a lot of automakers have at least some vehicles that can burn CNG.

GreatPoint is also looking for other raw materials to obtain gas for, such as petroleum coke (a refining byproduct) and other plants, in order to gather data and test the catalyst.

For those of you who recognize the name Vinod Khosla as the Daddy Big-bucks of the ethanol scene, take note about his reasons for investing in GreatPoint: "I'm a pragmentalist, not an environmentalist. I'd love to get rid of coal, but politically it won't happen."

[Source: Forbes (sub's req'd)]

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