Coal gasification is an ancient art. Not too many years ago gas plants were a common feature of the industrial landscape in much of the northern part of the country. When I was a boy, gas plants abounded on the south side of the city of Chicago, chemical engineers at northern universities regularly visited gas manufacturing plants as a part of the school curriculum, and a man could graduate from a university with a degree in Gas Engineering or some variation of it. We tend to lose sight of this today.

Any process for converting coal to pipeline quality gas involves increasing the ratio of hydrogen to carbon in the coal. This hydrogen comes from water, the energy for the reaction comes from oxidation of some portion of the carbon to carbon dioxide. Any system that carries out these basic reactions can be called a coal gasification process, and technical know-how is available to design and build coal gasification plants — the trick is to be able to carry out the reactions at low cost. Low cost presumes reasonable efficiency in the process and minimum capital charges.

The Office of Coal Research (OCR) was established, by law, in 1960 and the staff was hired in 1961. So we are about ten years old. I propose to discuss coal gasification in general, but I intend to be most specific about the status of our program since that is what I know best. Although I propose to discuss coal gasification solely, I would like to assure you that we are working diligently to manufacture oil from coal as well as gas from coal.

It might be appropriate to touch briefly on the current need for synthetic gas. Irrespective of who makes the projection — and they do vary — all forecasters show a significant gap between supply and projected demand. It is not my intention to discuss the whys and wherefores of this gap, but I do say that it is becoming increasingly difficult to find gas in the amounts needed by our rising standard of living and increasing gross national product. Additionally, we are all aware of the fact that gas companies have been forced to turn down business with increasing frequency during the past three or four years. Fortunately for past three or four years. Fortunately for the gas industry and the nation, we have an adequate supply of coal to bridge this gap and provide us with all the gas we need. As an ancillary benefit, we will create job opportunities in many areas that are not now industrial, we will preserve our landscape, and we will make it possible to recover by-product chemicals into the bargain.

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