Energy Frontiers International
Exploring Emerging Energy Technologies Since 1980
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EFI Background & Evolution


Energy Frontiers International (EFI) traces its origins back to 1980 and the world's first trade association formed by companies involved in the development of a commercial alternative and synthetic fuels industry.


Thirty-five years later, EFI's role as a meeting place for companies and organizations involved at the forefront of downstream conversion technologies, processes, and fuels to share recent developments in a small group, non-advocacy environment of peers have made EFI's international network more relevant than ever as a valuable source of information, insight, and relationship building for those involved in emerging energy technology development, demonstration, deployment, and scenario planning worldwide.




1980 - 1986 | Energy Crises of the 1970s Stimulate Interest in Alternative Energy Sources


National Council on Synthetic Fuels Production (NCSFP)


Energy Frontiers International (EFI) traces its origins back to 1980 and the founding in the United States of the National Council on Synthetic Fuels Production (NCSFP) - the first trade association formed by companies that had a stake in the development of a commercial synthetic fuels industry. The Council was created following passage of the U.S. Energy Security Act of 1980. The Act set aside up to US $88 billion to be administered by a quasi-governmental entity - the United States Synthetic Fuels Corporation - to develop a domestic U.S. synthetic fuels industry capable of producing 2 million barrels of oil equivalent by 1990, through loans, loan guarantees, and/or price supports to selected projects.


In the mid-1980s, as a result of changes in the world energy situtation and in U.S. energy policy, the U.S. Congress abolished the U.S. Synthetic Fuels Corporation.


Recognizing the international nature of interest in synthetic fuels technologies and the poor prospects for the widespread production of synthetic fuels in the near term, the name of the organization was shortened to the "Council on Synthetic Fuels" in 1985.




1986 - 1996 | Sharp Reductions in Oil Price and Alternative Energy Technology R&D Investments


Council on Alternate Fuels (CAF)


By the mid-1980s the term "synthetic fuels" had fallen into disfavor, being widely perceived as synonymous with uneconomic and/or technically immature projects dependent upon government subsidies for survival. The demise of the high-profile U.S. synthetic fuels program together with demand and supply responses to earlier oil price increases led to sharp reductions in private sector research and development in synthetic fuels.


In 1986, Saudi Arabia ceased its policy of supporting the world oil price through supply curtailments, and oil prices fell sharply.  It was at this time (August 1986) that the organization changed its name to the Council on Alternate Fuels (CAF). By this time, the Council's membership consisted of approximately 20 companies, a third of the level at the organization's founding in 1980.


Throughout the 1980s the Council served its members as a forum at which companies and individuals interested in advances in synthetic fuel technology could network with one another and keep abreast of developments in the field.



A Growing Interest in Gasification


The international concern over the supply of liquid fuels that had shaped energy policy in the 1970s and early 1980s was replaced in the latter half of the 1980s with concern over the environmental effects of coal combustion in power plants. The short hand term for the problem was "acid rain". The short hand term for the solution was "clean coal technologies". Legislation was passed to reduce power plant emissions of sulfur and nitrogen oxides, and a Clean Coal Technologies program was created within the U.S. Department of Energy using funds left over following the demise of the U.S. synthetic fuels program. Thus, the public policy focus shifted from production of synthetic transportation fuels to reduction of acid rain precursors from coal power plants.

Within the Council on Alternate Fuels, companies formerly interested in gasification as a technology component in the indirect liquefaction of non-petroleum feedstocks for synthetic fuels production were drawn to the commercial potential of gasification combined cycle technology for the clean use of coal in power production. Growing interest in gasification led to the formation of a Gasification Committee within the Council on Alternate Fuels.

At technology conferences sponsored by the Council on Alternate Fuels in the period from 1985 - 1995, gasification project status reports and related presentations were prominent alongside presentations on synthetic liquids projects based on coal, shale, and natural gas.

During the first half of the 1990s, several IGCC demonstrations and other developments in the U.S. and other countries helped to increase interest in the commercial prospects of gasification technology. Initially the focus was on the gasification of coal in the U.S. for the production of power. This focus was broadened to cover the gasification of a wide variety of feedstocks, in a range of settings, for a broad number of products.

By the mid-1990s pressure was developing from companies active in the Gasification Committee for the Council on Alternate Fuels to adopt gasficiation as its focus and to become a strong proponent of the technology.



1996 - Present | Broadened, International Scope and Focus on Emerging Energy Technologies


Energy Frontiers International (EFI)

A year of consideration and discussio
n culminated in the decision in 1995 by Gasification Committee members to establish a separate organization - the Gasification Technologies Council (GTC) - to promote the benefits of gasification technologies. Today, the GTC is the recognized voice of the gasification technology industry and co-sponsors, with the Electric Power Research Institute, the industry's premier annual gasification conference.

At the time of the spin-off of the GTC, the Council on Alternate Fuels' Board directed the organization to continue its program of providing periodic conferences and networking activities for its members, but to broaden its focus beyond synthetic fuel technologies to include other emerging energy technologies that members felt were being inadequately followed within their own organizations.  It was agreed that the re-organized group would be an "information in", rather than a "message out" organization, and that it would not take positions in favor of particular technologies or regarding public policy issues.  The group was renamed Energy Frontiers International (EFI) to emphasize its desire to be international in scope and focused toward emerging energy technologies.

Since 1996, Energy Frontiers International has continued to hold technology forums and site visits throughout the world on a wide range of emerging energy topics.  The membership has grown in international scope and marked the organization's 40th anniversary this year.




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