China’s Energy Development Program
Hybrid Sales 1H04: Some Surprises

Major Coal-to-Liquid Project in China


Financial Times. Sasol, the world’s 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 Sasol’s 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 Sasol’s 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.


Ijaz Ahmad

I found this information useful especialy the cost of such projects. Presently,my organization has entrusted me to carry out research on the possibility of using indigenous low grade coal for the production of Syngas and high-value chemicals. I know the SA plants at Sasolsberg and Secunda have specialized the technology.China is doing great by banking on its own resources for the production of fuel and save huge foreign exchange. So far in my country, coal is being utilized by the cement industry as fuel source.

Doug Lockhart

Tony Blakely on CNBC recently said that (his) research shows that a major problem with coal-to-liquid was that the plants only lasted 4-5 years due to the corrosive effects of the process. Any truth?

Ashley Silva

Sasol ll in Secunda was built in the mid ' 80's and is still going strong. I don't know where he got his 4-5 years from. Google "Sasol", "coal to liquid", "gas to liquid"

Patrick Dooley

Plant longevity and reliability is determined by utilizing proper materials and sizing in the construction of process valves, vessels, pipelines. We have sufficient onsite observations and empirical data in place to construct coal to liquid/gas facilities that reliable. Coal to liquids is a viable and proven adjunct to petroleum mainstays and SASOL is an experienced, excellent choice.

Robert Matthews

Which of the variants on the coal to liquid technologies is being considered for use in China?

There my be as many as a dozen companies, each with its own wrinkle on the Fischer-Troph process. Or is there a "new" process?

I'll bet that India is interested as well. Does India plan to use the same technology?

Bill McNeal

I've read articles completely contrary to that assertion that CLT is cleaner than regular petrol. In fact, they've stated that it produces twice as much carbon when used outright and is carbon trapping is used during production it is still 10% higher. That sounds to me lose lose. That's coming from the NRDC. With the Supreme Court's recent decision regarding pollution and carbon dioxide, what does this mean for the future of CLT?

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