The future

The beginnings of synthetic petrol production

uhli_benzin.jpgThe reserves of oil are not distributed evenly over the planet – most of the developed industrial countries do not possess any. Especially in wartime and during political crises this has considerable impact on economics and politics. On the other hand, coal is spread substantially more evenly and can be found in many developed countries. Theoretically, it is possible to convert it to liquid fuels, without which no transport can operate and wars cannot be fought. This fact was taken into consideration in Germany, already, prior to the First World War.

The beginnings of the development of synthetic petrol in Germany are connected primarily to the name of professor Friedrich Bergius, who acquired a patent on the technological process of coal liquefaction in 1913. Conversion of carbon from coal to hydrocarbons similar to oil was carried out by means of hydrogenation in high temperatures, using ferric oxide as a catalyst.

This process was successfully utilized on an industrial scale as late as in 1926 in the IG Farben works. However, in peacetime the product could not compete with oil derivatives. Nevertheless, due to preparations for the new war considerable investment was put into further development.


It was no accident that another method developed by Lewis Karrick emerged in Germany again – the low temperature carbonization. The process is similar to coke production, however, it takes place using lower temperatures: between 450 and 700 degrees Celsius. The tars produced with a high share of light hydrocarbons are then easily processed into liquid fuels.

The best-known of these methods is the so-called Fischer-Tropsch process. It was developed in 1920 by Franz Fischer and Hanz Tropsch from the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute. This also concerns the effect of carbon on coal (more precisely, on carbon monoxide produced as a result of imperfect combustion of coal) through catalysts, however, the intermediate product in this case is a gaseous mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide – the so-called syngas. Subsequently, liquid fuels are produced from this.

During the Second World War synthetic petrol represented a strategic raw material which enabled Germany to continue fighting even without oil supplies. Part of the production also took place in our territory and it continued as late as the 50’s. With the rising price of oil the Fischer-Tropsch process and the means of its sophistication are again coming into the limelight.