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Coal Electrolysis

Coal is one of the most important sources of energy in the world and is among the most cost-efficient and abundant fuels available. For many years coal has been used to produce electrical energy. Its use is, however, a large source of environmental contamination. Pollution, together with the expected shortage of oil in the future, has created the need for alternative green energies. Coal electrolysis is an excellent green alternative for hydrogen fuel production.

The electrolysis of coal was first proposed in the late 70’s by Coughlin and Farooque. The process involves the oxidation of coal at the anode of an electrochemical cell

C + 2H2O -----> CO2 + 4H+ + 4e-

and reduction at the cathode to produce hydrogen

4H+ + 4e- -----> 2H2

The theoretical standard potential for this process is 0.21V, which is significantly lower than the standard potential of water electrolysis (1.23 V).

CEER has developed a new technology (apparatus, catalyst, and method) to produce hydrogen using coal as the raw material. The technology is called the “Continuous Coal Electrolytic Cell (CEC)”. In this process, a small amount of electric power is applied to a coal-slurry to produce clean hydrogen with minimum CO2 emissions.

Electrochemical cell to produce pure hydrogen using coal as the raw material

The CEC is operated at low temperatures (25-180°C) and pressures (1-2 atm), and it also has the capacity to produce liquid fuels and other organic materials with significant commercial potential.


  1. The H2 storage problem is minimized, and there is greater fuel flexibility and enhanced compatibility with renewable energy sources.

  2. The CEC is a clean technology: product gases do not contain harmful pollutants such as SOx H2S, and NOx.

  3. Low temperature operation and mild working conditions make this process cheaper than others. In addition, the separation of CO2 is not required.

  4. Coal is not completely oxidized to CO2. Intermediate oils are formed that may have commercial value. In addition, the char may have enhanced properties than the char from coal gasification.


  • State of Wyoming under the Clean Coal Technology Initiative


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  2. N. Sathe and G.G. Botte, "Assessment of coal and graphite electrolytes on carbon fiber electrodes," J. Power Sources, 161, p513 (2006)

  3. Y. DeAbreu, P. Patil, A. Marquez and G. G. Botte, "Characterization of electrooxidized Pittsburgh No. 8 Coal," Fuel, 86, p573 (2007)

  4. X. Jin and G.G. Botte, "Feasibility of hydrogen production from coal electrolysis at intermediate temperatures," J. Power Sources, 171, p826 (2007)

  5. X. Jin and G.G. Botte, "Electrochemical technique to measure Fe(II) and Fe(III) concentrations simultaneously," J. Appl. Electrochem., 39, p1709 (2009)

  6. X. Jin and G.G. Botte, "Understanding the kinetics of coal electrolysis at intermediate temperatures," J. Power Sources, 195, p4935 (2010)