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Coal gasification technologies may be economically attractive

Published: 21.12.2015

Coal gasification technologies, i.e. technologies of transforming coal into a gas fuel, may be economically attractive and environmentally friendly, experts assure.

The issue was discussed by Tomasz Chmielniak, Ph.D., from the Institute of Chemical Coal Processing during a conference on coal gasification held in Kędzierzyn-Koźle. Such a conclusion stems from Chmielniak's own research as well as international publications, the scientist stressed.

For instance, the cost of producing methanol from coal-derived gas stands at some EUR 263 per ton as compared to the 2014 market price of natural gas, which was some EUR 60 to 187 higher.

Polish coal is perfectly suitable for the gasification process, Chmielniak assured. Coal gasification may be used for producing clean energy or cheap chemicals, he explained. The main advantages of this process, in Chmielniak's view, include the fact that it is environmentally friendly. Moreover, it creates multiple uses of natural gas: both for producing energy and chemicals.

Gasification may produce fuels and electricity

One of the projects related to coal gasification is being run by professor Andrzej Strugała from the AGH University of Science and Technology. Strugała has managed this big project, run by a consortium led by AGH with the participation of other scientific institutions and firms, for over five years, and works are now in their final stage. In the frame of the project, Strugała's team is working on finding a technology of coal gasification for high-efficiency production of fuels and electric energy.

The main goal of the project, Strugała explains, is to work out a configuration and parameters for a coal gasification unit which is to be used as basis for building trial installations around Poland. Strugała presented the results of the project during the Kędzierzyn conference.

These include, among others, a positively verified technology of pressurized coal gasification. The results served to draft documentation and an initial feasibility study. The scientists also devised and positively verified a technology of hard coal gasification underground. This particular test was run in a functioning coal mine KWK Wieczorek, Strugała indicated. Several hundred tons of coal were gasified underground to yield low caloric natural gas, which in the future can be used in the so-called dispersed power generation, i.e. generation based on small, local generation units.

However, this technology will have limited impact in Poland in the coming years, the scientist stressed.

"There are large difficulties with its implementation, primarily resulting from the fact that the coal-holding rock mass in Poland is damaged, which can lead to dire consequences," he said.

Gasification of coal deposits over 1 km deep

The research has been focused on how to utilize, thanks to the new technology, coal deposits lying deeper than 1 kilometer, those which are unprofitable to mine, Strugała added.

"Therefore the technology is directed more towards improving the efficiency of deposit management, i.e. a fuller utilization of coal deposits rather than in the direction of a new technology of producing gas fuels, especially for the chemical industry.”

Strugała's team also devised a strategy proposal for the development of coal gasification.

The chart presents the level of coal production in Poland. In 2000, some 103.3 mln tons were mined. In 2014, output declined to PLN 73.3 mln tons.

Source: GUS

Poland already has plans of erecting an installation for on-ground coal gasification: chemicals firm ZAK, a unit of Grupa Azoty, wants to realize such an investment. In this case a PLN 2.4 bln low-emission installation is to use some 900k to 1 mln tons of coal annually and cover 15% of natural gas needs of Grupa Azoty. Coal is to be used to produce methanol or ammonia, which means that accompanying installations for methanol and ammonia will be needed. Hard coal will be the raw material used for production. The time needed to build the main installation is estimated at some 36 months and its lifetime is expected to reach 30 years.

At present ZAK is conducting a feasibility study for the installation as well as works on the investment's financing structure.

Kędzierzyn installation will give Grupa Azoty access to cheap gas

Coal gasification and clean coal technologies are without a doubt a great chance not just for Poland's mining and chemicals segments, but also for the entire Polish economy, ZAK CEO Adam Leszkiewicz believes.

"I am convinced that thanks to such innovative undertakings we may significantly strengthen the position of our region and draw many benefits from it," Leszkiewicz said. "We have worked on the project of coal gasification for a long time. Now it is time to implement it."

Coal gasification will ensure for Grupa Azoty a stable and relatively cheap access to synthesized gas, the type used in the group's everyday operations.

Grupa Azoty has been working on the project of coal gasification for over five years. The firm signed a cooperation agreement on the matter with the AGH university of science and technology.

Source - Polish Press Agency, Economic Service 

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Published by: Justyna Kania
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Last change: 21.12.2015
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