China's Coal-to-Liquids

by Yang Jing, Interfax China, March 6, 2007

A senior official with China Shenhua Group said at an industrial forum in Beijing on Tuesday that the CTL (coal-to-liquids) process is sufficiently efficient and environmentally friendly, dismissing comments that such technology wastes too much energy and hurts the environment.

Wu Xiuzhang, the vice chief engineer at Shenhua Group, said at the CTLtec Asia 2008 conference that its CTL project, which will have an annual oil production capacity of 1.08 million tons, will be put into operation in September.

The CTL project, located in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, will be the first in China. According to Wu, most of the project’s output will be diesel fuel, but will also include naphtha and LPG (liquefied petroleum gas).

Wu said that energy conversion efficiency of CTL processes can reach 59.3 percent, higher than the IGCC (integrated gasification combined cycle) process, which, he said, is deemed the power generation technology with the highest energy efficiency.

However, Dr. Gary Kendall with World Wildlife Fund International said at the same forum that the “mine-to-wheels” efficiency of CTL products is only 12 percent, while that of IGCC plant is as much as 30 percent.

“Mine to wheels” means the process’s total efficiency in converting coal into liquid fuel for vehicles.

Kendall said that CTL has no place in a responsible energy plan, since the coal-to-electron for vehicles process can deliver
almost three times as many kilometers as CTL.

Another debate arose at the conference regarding the considerable water consumption of the CTL process. Wu said that Shenhua Group’s CTL project will consume 8 tons of water for each ton of oil product output, while the total water consumption for crude oil exploitation and oil refining processes is 6 tons for each ton of oil product output. Wu said it is untrue that CTL projects need significantly more water supplies than other energy development projects, adding that there will be very little water waste in Shenhua Group’s project, since most water will be re-used.

In addition, Wu said that patty residue from the project will be used as the feedstock of a power plant.

CTL projects are believed to produce much more carbon dioxide than conventional crude refining.

According to Wu, 44.61 percent of carbon produced by the feedstock for this project becomes carbon dioxide, meaning the project will emit 4.16 million tons of carbon dioxide annually, or 3.75 tons for each ton of oil product output and half a ton for each barrel of oil output.

However, Wu said that over 70 percent of the carbon dioxide output from this project will have a carbon dioxide concentration as high as 92.15 percent, which means it will be easy to utilize for other purposes. Wu said Shenhua Group has already initiated talks with West Virginia University about treatment of carbon dioxide emissions.

In addition, Wu said that because the price of crude oil on the international market is still at a very high level, Shenhua Group’s project will be profitable. He said it will be economically feasible if the price of crude oil price stands at over $40 per barrel.

Interfax Commentary: As China depends more and more on oil imports, coal chemical development, including CTL technology, will be important to the country’s energy security. Three demonstration projects are now under construction and will start operation in 2008 and 2009.

It is clear that China needs to rely more on its abundant coal reserve to ensure domestic energy supplies, but the government may be cautious when making plans to develop coal chemical projects, especially regarding water supply and whether such processes are the best way to use coal.

This article was originally published by Interfax-China, and is republished with permission. Interfax-China’s team of in-country analysts track China’s industries and markets. This article is part of comprehensive daily coverage of China’s energy sector. Learn how more about these markets and the opportunities they offer your business. Learn about energy in China through our China Energy Weekly and focused energy reports carbon trading, clean & renewable energy, CTL, oil & gas, and power generation. Free Trial – Contact Andrew Billard; or by phone at 86-10-8532-5021 (Beijing, China).

One Response to “China's Coal-to-Liquids”
  1. derickjeff says:

    Coal-to-Liquids — that is, the conversion of coal to liquid transport fuels — is in fact not new a technology and has been practiced for a number of decades in countries such as South Africa,Australia,Germany and also in China.The most viable Coal-to-Liquids system requires the conversion of coal into a synthesis gas consisting of hydrogen and carbon monoxide and then its synthesis into long-chain liquid fuel molecules.


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