Fischer-Tropsch often referred to as FT for short is a series of chemical reactions to convert carbon monoxide and hydrogen into liquid hydrocarbons. The reactions are triggered by a catalyst, usually cobalt or iron, and managed under high temperatures in a chamber or reactor. The idea is quite beguiling: converting biomass or coal or even natural gas, especially stranded natural gas, to something useful like a liquid fuel. Unfortunately, FT is expensive, requiring significant capital to build the reactor and attendant gasification, water handling, and fuel distribution systems. Operating costs are not cheap either as all those systems require people to watch over them regular maintenance and repair. Then there is the cost of replacing the catalyst when it wears out!
Rentech voluntarily threw in the towel, but Germany-based Choren Industries was forced into bankruptcy as development costs and construction delays burned up capital resources. After synthesizing the first liquid fuel from wood in a laboratory in 2001, and then building a commercial-scale plant in 2008, Choren stubbed its toe on its first large-scale ‘biomas-to-gas-to-liquids’ facility that was to have had the capacity to process 250 million liters of liquid fuel per year. Like Rentech, the surviving Choren Industries has a series of international patents to commemorate its multi-stage gasification and fuel synthesizing process that the company still puts to use in protecting its gasification services.