Birth of the Synthetic Fuels Industry

by Eugene E. Dallaire, Assoc. Editor; Civil Engineering Magazine, New York, NY 10017,

Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 1980, Vol. 50, Issue 7, Pg. 49-56

Document Type: Feature article


The U.S. is now in the early stages of creating a synthetic fuels industry, a much needed step to help to decrease America's dependence on foreign oil imports. Synfuels refer to the production of crude oil from oil shale and to the production of synthetic gas and liquid fuels from coal. Very promising is the development of the U.S.'s vast oil shale reserves in a 50 mile by 50 mile area in Western Colorado. This area contains much more recoverable shale oil than the entire oil reserves of Saudi Arabia. But production will likely be limited to 1,500,000 bbl/d (oil consumption in the U.S. is 18,000,000 bbl/d) because of limited water supplies in that region. Water would have to be pumped in from another basin to boost production beyond that. Over the next 15 years, the U.S. is likely to get far more synfuels from coal. A promising approach is to convert coal to substitute natural gas and use that gas to displace oil and natural gas use in industry. The freed industrial oil could then be used for the transportation sector, which must have liquid fuels.

Subject Headings: Oils | Shale | Fuels | Industries | Natural gas | Water supply | Pumps | Basins | Colorado | United States | Saudi Arabia | Middle East | Asia

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