$1.4 million grant to fuel UK's coal-to-liquids study

A $1.426 million federal grant will enable the University of Kentucky to step up research on refining coal into liquid fuels and advance the development of a synthetic fuels industry in the state.

UK will use part of the federal money to begin building a $12-million ”mini-refinery“ at the UK Center for Applied Energy Research in UK's research park off Iron Works Pike in northern Fayette County.

The Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet has pledged an additional $350,000 for the project.

The federal grant was announced Friday afternoon at UK by U.S. Reps. Hal Rogers, R-Somerset, and Geoff Davis, R-Hebron.

The two congressmen got the money earmarked in the fiscal 2008 federal budget.

With the price of gasoline close to $4 a gallon, the United States needs to end its dependence on foreign energy sources and develop alternatives ”right here at home,“ Rogers said in a UK news release.

”Given our country's vast coal reserves, coal-to-liquids technology is an extremely promising domestic alternative to petroleum-based transportation fuel,“ Rogers said.

Davis said the U.S. needs to enact a ”comprehensive energy strategy that will explore our domestic resources, develop alternative fuels and invest heavily in future fuel technology.“

He said coal-to-liquid technology could bring ”thousands of jobs“ to Kentucky.

UK President Lee T. Todd Jr. echoed the congressmen's remarks.

”Energy independence is an absolute must if this nation hopes to remain globally competitive,“ Todd said. ”The funds will provide UK's Center for Applied Energy Research the additional resources it needs to leverage its innovative advancements in coal-to-liquid technology.“

The mini-refinery will enhance UK's research into the Fischer-Tropsch process, a series of chemical reactions create synthetic oil and fuel from coal, natural gas or animal and plant matter.

The mini-refinery is expected to reduce costs and create a more environment-friendly liquid fuel by reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

UK will integrate into the mini-refinery a slurry column reactor used in the Fischer-Tropsch process.