My watch list  

Synthetic Liquid Fuels Program

The Synthetic Liquid Fuels Program was a program run by the United States Bureau of Mines to create the technology to produce synthetic fuel from coal. It was initiated in 1944 during World War II. The Synthetic Liquid Fuels Act approved on April 5, 1944 authorized the use of $30 million over a five year period for

...the construction and operation of demonstration plants to produce synthetic liquid fuels from coal, oil shales, agricultural and forestry products, and other substances, in order to aid the prosecution of the war, to conserve and increase the oil resources of the Nation, and for other purposes.


The Bureau of Mines first studied the extraction of oil from oil shale between 1925 - 1928.

Between 1928 and 1944, the Bureau experimented with coal liquefaction by hydrogenation using the Bergius process. A small-scale test unit constructed in 1937 had a 100-pound per day continuous coal feed. The methodologies employed underwent extensive development in this period, delivering significant increases in efficiency, culminating in the Karrick process.

Between 1945 and 1948, new laboratories were constructed near Pittsburgh. A synthetic ammonia plant Louisiana, Missouri (Missouri Ordnance Works) was transferred from the Army to the program in 1945. The plant was converted into a coal hydrogenation test facility. By 1949 the plant could produce 200 barrels of oil a day using the Bergius process.

Part of the personnel were German scientists, who had been extracted from Germany by Operation Paperclip.

In 1948, the program was extended to eight years and funding increased to $60 million. A second facility was constructed at the Louisiana plant, this time using the Fischer-Tropsch process. Completed in 1951, the plant only produced 40,000 gallons of fuel.

In 1953 the new Republican-led House Appropriations Committee ended funding for the research and the Missouri plant was returned to the Department of the Army.

In 1979, after the second oil crisis, the U.S. Congress approves the Energy Security Act forming the Synthetic Fuels Corporation and authorizes up to $88 million for synthetic fuels projects.

In 1985 Congress abolished the Synthetic Liquid Fuels Program after 40 years and total spending of $8 billion.

See also


  • The Early Days of Coal Research at the U.S. Department of Energy site.
  • You Don’t Need Oil To Make Fuel
  • Review on Oil shale data
  • German Synthetic Fuels Scientists
  • The Bureau of Mines Synthetic Liquid Fuels Program 1944-55 Part 1 Oil From Coal
  • A magic way to make billions (TIME Magazine, February 2006)
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Synthetic_Liquid_Fuels_Program". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
Your browser is not current. Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.0 does not support some functions on Chemie.DE