Financial Times. Sasol, the worlds largest synthetic fuels producer, is building two coal-to-liquid plants in China. (Image at right sketches the production process. Click to enlarge.)
The two projects, in the Ning Xia and Shaan Xi provinces, are expected to cost about $3bn each and to have a combined annual production of 60m tonnes of oil. China currently needs to import 100m tonnes of oil a year and is keen to reduce its reliance on the Middle East.
It is a very big deal, a company executive said yesterday. We are talking four or five Secundas. Secunda is Sasols flagship plant in South Africa, which produces 150,000 barrels of oil a day.
The project had been rumored for some time, with lengthy discussions between the parties concerning protection of Sasols intellectual property.
Sasol was founded in 1950 with the original Fischer-Tropsch (FT) technologies for synthesizing fuel and enhanced it from there. In the coal-to-liquids FT process, the producer gasifies the coal to create syngas, which then is treated to create a variety of liquid fuels and chemicals. The resulting fuels are very clean -- much lower in emissions such as Volatile Organic Compounds, CO and Particulate Matter than standard petroleum fuels. However, the process is resource intensive.
Sasol is also working in Qatar on straight Natural Gas-to-Liquids projects. (In other words, skip the coal gasification process, and take natural gas to syngas to fuels.) More information on Sasol technology here.