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Vol. 13, No. 29 Week of July 20, 2008
Providing coverage of Alaska and northern Canada's oil and gas industry

Fairbanks considers coal-to-gas plant

Federal and state officials will gather in Fairbanks to plan a gasification plant that could turn coal and biomass into power and fuel for interior Alaska.

The meeting will be hosted by Fairbanks North Star Borough Mayor Jim Whitaker and U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens.

Whitaker said he hopes the summit will solidify federal and state support for an energy plan developed by the borough and the Fairbanks Economic Development Corp. as heating and fuel costs have increased sharply.

Experts in resources, transportation and technology will speak at the meeting July 18. Discussions continue July 19, and Whitaker is looking for support.

“We recognize that it will take a bit of time, but not much, in order for the participants of this summit to be fully authorized (to act),” Whitaker said. “The intent is to fast-track this.”

Local proponents hope the military will agree to allow a plant to be built at Eielson Air Force Base and to purchase fuel, which would help bring a plant on line quickly, Whitaker said.

Alaska’s congressional delegation will be joined at the meeting by U.S. Department of Energy Undersecretary Bud Albright Jr. and Kevin Billings, deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force for Energy and Environment.

State House Speaker John Harris, R-Valdez, is expected to attend. Gov. Sarah Palin has been invited.

The Fairbanks Economic Development Corp. and the borough expect a report this fall by Toronto-based consultant Hatch Ltd. that should identify the best options and costs for building a gasification plant.

A plant would turn coal and biomass into gas, then use the Fischer-Tropsch process to turn gas into liquid fuel for space heating and transportation. Additional gas would be used to power turbines to generate electricity.

Coal and biomass also could also be gasified as synthetic fuels. The Air Force could be a critical market for those synthetic fuels.

The Fischer-Tropsch process was developed in Germany in the 1920s. The process has been used for several decades to fuel vehicles in South Africa.

—The Associated Press



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