The governor’s office said Tuesday that two companies have agreed to study coal-to-gas sites in Montana. Gov. Brian Schweitzer has made a coal gasification plant which converts coal to liquid fuel such as synthetic diesel or even jet fuel a centerpiece of his agenda. He says new technology could turn Montana’s massive coal fields into profitable, largescale ventures. Schweitzer planned a formal announcement in Billing for later Tuesday morning. Since taking office, the governor has met with a laundry list of energy and development companies about building a plant in Montana. He says many players must be lined up for projects that could easily cost hundreds of millions of dollars. The governor, who describes his role as a “catalyst” in attracting development, said plans are still in the very early stages, as he looks to get different companies interested that can finance the project, build and run the plant and use or sell the end product.
He envisions various projects for diesel, aviation fuel, methanol and electricity production. The governor’s office said Tuesday he will confirm that two companies have formed anAgreement to study potential sites in Montana. Such a move would be the first step in a long process that could ead to a final project. Last week, Schweitzer met with the international engineering and plant construction company Lurgi AG. Schweitzer, touting the “Fischer-Tropsch” process first developed in Germany during World War II, has taken some heat for his enthusiasm over building a coal gasification plant in Montana. Environmentalists said the technology is not as clean as it is purported to be, while political foes said the governor is not being realistic with his expectations. Schweitzer has met with such companies as the South African oil and gas company Sasol Ltd., the Atlanta-based Southern Co., and General Electric about a similar plant.