08 June 2006 14:54 [Source: ICIS news]
By Nigel Davis
In China, particularly, but also in other coal rich parts of the world, the race is on to build new plants to utilise what is, with oil prices around $70/bbl, a relatively attractive feedstock. Coal is already used successfully to produce liquid fuels using Fischer-Tropsch-based technologies.
There is a strong push now to use coal to make the environmentally-friendly fuel dimethyl ether (DME).
As consultants Tecnon Orbichem said at the APIC petrochemicals gathering this year, the focus of interest has been on methanol made for coal-derived synthesis gas. Distilling methanol in an intermediate step helps eliminate otherwise unwanted impurities.
Potentially, methanol can be converted to a healthily long list of chemicals. The consultants point to 14 methanol-to-olefins (MTO) projects planned for
Dow is looking at a project with
The world leader in coal-to-liquids (CTL) technology,
These plants will be vast, but costly, so the risks are enormous. On the other hand the opportunity to gain a foothold in the world’s fastest growing chemicals market is compelling.
The list goes on as the products become more diverse. Many firms want to modernise the gasification plants serving ammonia units. Bayer will use carbon monoxide made from coal by Linde and
The China PVC from acetylene and coal-based methanol carbonylation route to acetic acid stories are quite well known. In the rush to build new world-scale acetic acid plants using coal-derived methanol, however,
The DME development, though, is the most fascinating. DME could be a super fuel given its relatively high oxygen content and easy vaporisation. Technology has moved on such that now DME can be produced directly from synthesis gas made from coal or natural gas rather than from methanol making production more attractive in coal-rich countries.
DME’s use in
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