Thermax aims to commercialise coal gasification tech – Industry News

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With an aim to commercialise coal gasification technology, energy and environment solutions provider Thermax is targeting to build its first commercial-scale coal gasification plant in the range of 100 to 500 tonnes per day (TPD). The company has developed its coal gasification technology and built a pilot-scale plant in Pune to showcase it.

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Experts said the new gasification method is appropriate for high-ash (30-50% ash) Indian coal. The current global gasification methods have limitations and they are not fit for use with high-ash coal and are not a technically viable answer for the Indian sector. The technology will require an investment of around Rs 20,000 crore.

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It is positioned as an option for hard-to-abate sectors such as steel, and it will help in the transition to low-carbon steel production. A move from imported coking coal to syngas-based steelmaking would dramatically reduce reliance on coking coal and lower steel production costs. Thermax was in talks with several industrial customers in the steel industry who were interested in implementing this in-house solution.

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Meher Pudumjee, chairperson, Thermax, said: “India has a lot of coal, but with climate change, the challenge was what to do with it, and coal gasification was an answer. As a result of climate change, they were looking for ways to really use coal and convert it into something productive that would not harm the environment.”

However, the technology absorbs and concentrates CO2. The company was considering producing chemicals from high-ash coal such as methanol, ethanol, hydrogen, dimethyl ether, olefins, and other value-added chemicals. When compared to the combustion method for power generation, the gasification process can capture up to 60-70% of the energy in coal, resulting in a more efficient and less carbon-intensive operation.

According to Ashish Bhandari, managing director and CEO of Thermax, India cannot eliminate coal, but the question is how to make coal clean. As 70% of India’s coal reserves were used to generate energy, other potential possibilities, such as turning coal into value-added chemicals, were not extensively pursued.

“Coal gasification allows you to collect the carbon in a form that is concentrated enough and you can do carbon capture. The clean gas (syngas/pure gas) produced from coal can be utilised to indigenously produce fuels like ethanol, methanol and various downstream chemicals. Indian coal can substitute for the import of these chemicals,” Bhandari said.

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