August 19, 2004
RTI International Synthetic Fuel Technology Earns R&D 100 Award
Breakthrough stands among year’s most important scientific achievements; promises clean, economical use of coal
RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, NC -- RTI International has won a prestigious "R&D 100" award for a technology that removes large amounts of pollution from synthetic coal gas, or syngas, expanding the prospects for coal to replace imported petroleum and natural gas.
The annual R&D 100 award, sponsored by the leading trade journal R&D Magazine, honors the most significant new technologies of the year.
The United States has one-quarter of the world’s proven coal reserves. The RTI breakthrough cleans syngas so that it can be used to generate electricity, produce hydrogen, make chemical products, or produce motor fuels. Syngas from coal can be used in any process that uses natural gas, if cleaned of coal's sulfur-containing pollutants.
"We are very proud to receive this prestigious award," said RTI International President and CEO Victoria Haynes. "The R&D 100 award is a testament to the commitment of RTI's scientists, as well as to our industry partners and the Department of Energy, who jointly fund this important research to develop clean sustainable energy sources."
RTI’s technology, called the "T-2749 Fluidized-bed Desulfurization Sorbent," removes these pollutants before the syngas goes into industrial processes more efficiently than existing syngas-cleaning technologies. Removing the pollutants "upstream" of the process not only enables cleaner use of coal, it also protects expensive equipment from corrosion. In addition, RTI's technology has lower installation costs compared with existing technologies.
RTI has nano-engineered T-2749 particles so that they are long lasting, have an extremely large surface area available to absorb sulfur, and can be regenerated within the system for continuous use.
Working with industry and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), RTI has developed and is demonstrating a complete system to use the T-2749 material at existing commercial plants. RTI and Eastman Chemical Company are installing a demonstration system this fall at Eastman's Kingsport, Tenn., plant. Eastman is the nation's largest user of coal, rather than petroleum, to make chemical and plastic products.
Kentucky-based Süd-Chemie Inc. participated in the R&D and now sells the T-2749 material as a commercial product. Kellogg Brown & Root, Inc., helped RTI build the first system for cleaning coal-derived syngas with T-2749.
The DOE and industry partners have funded RTI’s clean coal research for nearly 20 years. In a letter supporting RTI for the R&D 100 award, Robert D. Bedick, Ph.D., director of the DOE Fuels and Energy Efficiency Projects Division, stated, "Gas cleaning represents a key enabling technology in our [DOE's] vision for generating electrical power and hydrogen using coal and other carbonaceous fuels, ... RTI has contributed major innovations and leadership in the field of gas-cleaning technology."
RTI International has the largest energy R&D program in North Carolina. Additional energy R&D activities include the development of a carbon dioxide capture process to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, production of a solid-state material that can store and release hydrogen on demand for use in fuel cell vehicles, and the development of a cleanup process for biomass-based syngas.
RTI has won two R&D 100 awards within the past three years. The previous winner, in 2002, is known as the most significant advance in thermoelectric technology in more than 40 years. Thermoelectric materials are valuable for applications such as cooling microprocessors, rapid switching in fiber optics, and generating electricity from waste heat.