Coal Gasification

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    In Context 

    • The Centre’s announcement on coal gasification-pilot projects in the Union Budget 2022-23 is contrary to Delhi-based non-profit Centre for Science and Environment (CSE)’s assessment about the process not being attractive from a climate change point of view.

    About Coal gasification

    • It is a process in which coal is partially oxidised with air, oxygen, steam or carbon dioxide to form a fuel gas. 
      • This gas is then used instead of piped natural gas , methane and others for deriving energy.
    • India has a reserve of 307 Billion tonnes of thermal coal and about 80% of coal produced is used in thermal power plants
      • With environmental concerns and the development of renewable energy, diversification of coal for its sustainable use is inevitable.
    • Benefits : 
    • It is considered as a cleaner option compared to the burning of coal and it facilitates utilization of the chemical properties of coal.
    • It produces SynGas that is usable in producing Synthetic Natural Gas (SNG), energy fuel (methanol & ethanol), ammonia for fertilizers and petro-chemicals. 
      • These products will help move towards self-sufficiency under Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyaan. 
    • Steel companies typically use coking coal in their manufacturing process.
      • Most of the coking coal is imported and is expensive. To cut costs, plants can use syngas, which comes from coal gasification plants in the place of coking coal. 

    Indian Efforts in Coal Gasification

    • In the past, a number of efforts have been made to gasify coal in India. These efforts started in the 1960s and are continuing even now with varying capacities/scales.
    • Setting up of National Coal Gasification Mission
      • In order to create awareness among all stakeholders and to prepare an implementable road map with specific responsibilities, the Ministry of Coal has decided to set up the National Coal Gasification Mission. The Mission is created with an aim to take up following objectives which are required for the vision of achieving 100 MT coal gasification by 2030.
    • NITI Aayog is presently exploring a roadmap and suitable technology options for surface coal gasification in the Indian context. In this perspective, a Technical Committee on Surface Coal Gasification has been constituted by (S&T), NITI AAYOG.
    • Various research and development programs are currently going on for the overall growth of the coal gasification sector in India.
    •  Some pilot projects are on their way to make the establishment and smooth running of large-scale commercial projects in the future

    Coal gasification usage in other countries

    • Coal gasification is prominent in China. 
      • Five per cent of China’s total coal consumption is from its gasifier.
      • China has the biggest number of coal gasification projects in the world due to the support of the Chinese Government through its 9th-12th Five-Year Plans.
    • Other Asian countries such as Japan are focusing on more efficient power generation cycles; for instance, coupling gasification with fuel cells.
    • The US has some coal gasification plants running. 
    • The Queensland Government in Australia announced the decision to prohibit all underground coal gasification activities and the in situ gasification of oil shale in April 2016.
      • The Queensland Parliament passed legislation on August 24, 2017, which places a moratorium on all activities relating to underground coal gasification.

    Concerns 

    • According to a recent assessment, coal gasification actually produces more carbon dioxide than a conventional coal-powered thermal power plant.
    • The coal gasifiers using steel plants have higher greenhouse gas emissions than many of their counterparts. 
    • Their emissions range from 2.8-3.1 tonnes of CO2 per tonne of steel manufacture while the sector average emissions is only 2.5.
    • Coal gasification plants are costlier than conventional power plants. Since, coal is the main feed for gasification, it, in no way helps in India’s decarbonisation goals.
    • International Studies :
      • A recent study by Princeton University in the United States found that using synthetic natural gas for residential cooking and heating, for electricity generation, or for industrial heat generation, results in 10, 40 and 70 per cent more CO2 emissions than directly burning coal that provides the same amount of energy in each sector.
      • According to a study by Duke University in the US, the syngas process converts a relatively high-quality energy source (coal) to a lower quality state (gas) and consumes a lot of energy in doing so.
      • Thus, the efficiency of conversion is also low. 

    Conclusion and way forward 

    • Coal gasification projects will need a dedicated infrastructure to be able to get them on the ground. 
      • Availability of basic facilities such as land, water and feedstock, which is coal, is extremely important for these projects to get kick-started.
    • The National Coal Gasification Mission’s objective to gasify 100 MT of coal will definitely require collaboration amongst the Government at various levels – Central, State and Local.
    • The Government would need to take some major and path breaking policy decisions to create a technologically and economically feasible environment to push coal gasification in India.
    • There have been numerous research efforts going on in different universities, laboratories, and PSU’s sporadically on the coal gasification process. 
      • There is an urgent need to consolidate all of them and bring them under one umbrella to avoid reinventing the wheel and have better collaboration

    Coal 

    • It is the most important and abundant fossil fuel in India. It accounts for 55% of the country’s energy needs. The country’s industrial heritage was built upon indigenous coal.
    • India has the 4th largest reserves of coal in the World. The total World proved reserves of coal are 1074 BT and India accounts for around 10% of the global reserves. 
      • The US has the largest coal reserves followed by Australia and China
    • Indian coal offers a unique eco-friendly fuel source to the domestic energy market for the next century and beyond. 
      • Hard coal deposits spread over 27 major coalfields, are mainly confined to eastern and south central parts of the country.
      • The lignite reserves stand at a level of around 36 billion tonnes, of which 90 % occur in the southern State of Tamil Nadu.

    Source:DTE