In its worldwide search for transportation fuel, China is turning to West Virginia University for cleaner, affordable, domestic options.

A team led by WVU Chemical Engineer Elliot Kennel will be conducting experiments to convert biomass and coal to transportation fuel under a project funded by the U.S. Department of Energy and using equipment donated by the Lu’an Group, a Chinese energy business enterprise.

China has one of the world’s fastest growing automotive markets. According to the Energy Information Administration’s International Energy Outlook 2010, car sales in China surged by nearly 50 percent in 2009 while sales through 2010 were expected to slow to a 7- to 10-percent. Experts predict that the growing demand will strain world oil markets.

“China plans to use coal-to-liquids technology to lessen its dependence on foreign oil,” said Jerald Fletcher, director of WVU’s US-China Energy Center. “Kennel’s project is interesting because it will help China develop technologies that are intended to lessen coal’s environmental impact.”