Continuing this 4-part article series on natural gas conversion, this next piece looks at the history of the conversion process. You can read part 1 on Natural Gas Conversion here.
Perhaps because we don’t see natural gas conversion plants on every street corner, we tend to think of the technology as something new, at bit cutting edge. But the truth is that the process was developed in 1925 by two German chemists, Franz Fischer and Hans Tropsch. Today we call the process the Fischer-Tropsch process or “F-T” for short, I imagine to avoid having to learn how to pronounce Tropsch (usually pronounced Trope, with a long “o”). Germany made great use of the process in World War II – having relatively small native oil reserves, Germany was able to fuel their war machine using the Fischer-Tropsch process by converting coal into liquid fuels. The WWII German synthetic fuels industry was able to produce 3.7 million barrels per month by early 1944, utilizing 25 F-T plants scattered across Germany and the occupied lands. The Pölitz plant alone was able to produce 575,000 tons of fuel in 1943.
A documentary on the topic can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jwHypKFYzGg.