1998-11-30

Economic, Environmental and Energy Life-Cycle Assessment of Coal Conversion to Automotive Fuels in China 982207

A life-cycle assessment (LCA) has been developed to help compare the economic, environmental and energy (EEE) impacts of converting coal to automotive fuels in China. This model was used to evaluate the total economic cost to the customer, the effect on the local and global environments, and the energy efficiencies for each fuel option. It provides a total accounting for each step in the life cycle process including the mining and transportation of coal, the conversion of coal to fuel, fuel distribution, all materials and manufacturing processes used to produce a vehicle, and vehicle operation over the life of the vehicle. The seven fuel scenarios evaluated in this study include methanol from coal, byproduct methanol from coal, methanol from methane, methanol from coke oven gas, gasoline from coal, electricity from coal, and petroleum to gasoline and diesel. The LCA results for all fuels were compared to gasoline as a baseline case.
Gasoline and diesel fuels derived from petroleum are the lowest cost options. No single coal-derived fuel technology is found to provide the best alternative in terms of all three aspects of energy, the environment and economics. In the near-term, the production of methanol from coal and coke oven gas, supplemented by co-production of methanol from the more than 1,000 ammonia plants in China, is attractive on a regional basis. Although the cost of methanol fuel is higher than that of gasoline or diesel, it is the most attractive of the coal-based fuel options at this time. Coal-based methanol fuels can be made more attractive to the consumer through appropriate subsidies or taxes. The EEE data suggests that electric vehicles, even with advanced nickel metal hydride batteries, are not presently attractive because of high vehicle cost, low energy efficiency and high life-cycle emissions of sulfur dioxide and particulate pollutants.

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