Published: December 2006
It seems probable that coal will regain its importance as a source of energy and chemicals in light of dwindling petroleum resources and rising prices of natural gas and oil (particularly in China and the eventually in the U.S). Coal’s exploitable resources have a potential to quench mankind's thirst for energy (and chemicals) at the current rate five times longer than gas resources. Proven recoverable coal reserves of about 990 billion metric tons offer a tremendous source of energy and chemicals for North America, Russia, China, Australia, India, Germany, and South Africa, each with more than 50 billion metric tons of coal reserves. The challenge is how to harness this enormous amount of coal resource, which constitutes about 22% of world energy demand, most economically without unduly impairing the environment.
Efforts are on-going to improve the techniques for harnessing coal energy. Several design and operational improvements and innovations are reported to have taken place in commercial gasification technology. In particular, Shell has made significant recent progress in developing commercial third generation of gasification technology to produce syngas from coal for conversion to both ammonia and methanol.
In this report we review entrained bed coal gasification technology using the Shell Coal Gasification Process (SCGP), integrated with the ICI/Synetix Low Pressure Methanol (LPM) process for the production of 5,000 MTPD of chemical grade methanol. Economics are then compared with the economics of producing 5000 metric tons per day of methanol from a natural gas in the U.S. Gulf Coast.