Coal is by far the world's most abundant and lowest cost fossil fuel resource and provides approximately 29 percent of global energy needs. Coal can be classified into four general ranks, determined by various traits including heating value, carbon content, and moisture. In order of lowest grade to highest, the ranks are lignite, sub-bituminous, bituminous, and anthracite. The bluegas™ process is compatible with all four of these coal types, and is not affected by sulfur or moisture content. GreatPoint's rigorous testing shows that some of the lowest cost coals such as Chinese lignite and sub-bituminous grades make ideal feedstocks without compromising the efficiency of the process or the quality of the end-product.
Many leading economies contain significant proven reserves of coal. For example, remaining U.S. recoverable coal reserves total over 270 billion tons, which contain 5 trillion MMBtu's (equivalent to approximately 800 billion barrels of oil). China's coal reserves total 125 billion tons (equivalent to over 350 billion barrels of oil).
Despite the fact that coal is abundant and cheap, air emissions from burning coal can create serious environmental hazards. These emissions contribute to localized air pollution as well as climate change, which have led to significant global resistance to the construction of new coal power generation facilities. Conversion of coal to natural gas provides a significantly cleaner and lower impact alternative to combustion and presents an opportunity for the bluegas™ process worldwide.
Petroleum coke is a by-product produced in the crude oil refining process that is generated when upgrading the heaviest portions of the petroleum barrel to more valuable lighter products such as gasoline and distillates using a coking unit. Petroleum coke is an excellent feedstock for hydromethanation due to its high carbon content, low percentage of ash, and because it is processed with high efficiency. Furthermore, the by-products that the bluegas™ process is able to extract with petroleum coke, such as vanadium and nickel, create significant additional value.
Petroleum coke has an energy content of 14,000-15,000 Btu / lbs versus 9,000 Btu / lbs for low-sulfur sub-bituminous coals, and thus represents an alternative source of feedstock with efficient transportation costs. Furthermore, total world petroleum coke production is expected to grow 7% annually, increasing from approximately 85 million dry metric tons ("DMT") in 2007 to over 150 million DMT by 2015.
Biomass is a renewable energy resource that is derived from a large variety of agriculture and forest plant matter as well as industrial and urban organic wastes. Biomass as a feedstock is attractive from a greenhouse gas perspective as well due to its limited carbon emissions on a lifecycle basis. As a natural resource, biomass is continuously being formed with the interaction of natural elements and is thus renewable. In nature is it is decomposed again by microorganisms into its chemical elements: water, carbon dioxide and energy in the form of heat.
There is more than one billion tons of biomass that can be converted into fuel annually in the U.S. alone. GreatPoint Energy's hydromethanation process converts biomass into high-value, clean, pipeline quality, natural gas. Sources such as woodchips, switchgrass, and municipal solid waste can be ideal feedstock for hydromethanation and represent a long-term opportunity for GreatPoint Energy to develop a fully renewable natural gas product that offers a superior alternative to fossil fuels.