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India to Prepare Action Plan for Coal-to-Liquids Industry

5 January 2007

The Indian government’s Investment Commission has concluded that Coal-to-Liquids (CTL) is feasible in India and recommended to the Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, that it should become an integral part of India’s strategy for oil security.

The Prime Minister has decided to set up an Inter-Ministerial Group within the Planning Commission to further examine the proposal and recommend a timebound action plan.

In its presentation, the Investment Commission noted that India will need to import more than 90% of its oil in the future, and that new domestic discoveries of oil and gas are not expected to alter that figure substantially.

The Investment Commission concluded that four to five major CTL projects could have the effect of essentially doubling domestic proven oil reserves. Although synthetic diesel fuel would be the primary output, the projects would also produce naptha and LPG.

The Commission also concluded that India’s low-grade coal is not a limitation. The Commission also stated that partnership with the government was necessary.

The Government of India established the Investment Commission in December 2004 to enhance and facilitate investment in India. The Commission makes recommendations to the Government of India on policies and procedures to facilitate investment, recommends projects and investment proposals that should be fast tracked/mentored and promotes India as an investment destination.

January 5, 2007 in Coal-to-Liquids (CTL), India | Permalink | Comments (22) | TrackBack (0)

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CTL is a fairly expensive technology, especially if the feedstock is high in sulphur. India will need to raise the retail price of road transportation fuels considerably to limit traffic growth/aggregate consumption and encourage the adoption of fuel efficient technology.

In addition, it will need to mandate the introduction of modern turbodiesel technology, including high-pressure injection systems, DPFs and NOx aftertreatment, as soon as economically feasible. The solar irradiation in tropical latitudes makes photochemical smog a serious population health hazard throughout much of the year.

Indian cities would also benefit greatly from the construction of subways and other forms of mass transit, even if those represent significant public expenditure. Chinese cities are now making these investments.

Rafael,
I have to disagree with you here:
1. I have it from two very different sources that CTL is competetive when oil is above $35-40/bbl. Got to say, even with recent soft patch in oil prices, that covers the foreseeable future.
2. You would know that synthetic diesel is a whole lot cleaner than diesel from oil. That would address a lot of your pollution concerns, wouldn't it? BTW, do we have any indication that pollution is even a priority with the Indian government?
3. High sulfur coal makes CTL more expensive? Sure, but it can't be much. You have to get rid of what sulfur there is anyway (before F-T), so how much more expensive would high sulfur coal be compared to low sulfur?

Due to the low hydrogen to carbon ratio of coal, it is a poor feedstock for X to liquid.

After partial combustion to form CO and H2 some of the CO has to be steam reformed to produced more H2 to obtain the correct ratio of CO and H2 to produce syn diesel.

A slightly different option would be to produce hydrogen using high temperature thermocatalytic production from a nuclear source, of which India has many.

Feeding hydrogen feedstock into a coal to liquids plant would totally eliminate the Co2 emissions from the CTL plant.

Thus the production of diesel from coal would actually be less CO2 intense than conventional oil refining.

And it would be a much better solution than burning the coal to produce electricity.

Andy

Andy: wouldn't you get the same result by feeding the CO2 to algae and save the nuclear power for electricity?

I think what andy was referring to was the excess heat produced by the nuclear plant. Only 1-2% of the heat produced by a nuclear plant is utilized for electricity. This leaves a lot of leftover heat for "high temperature thermocatalytic" hydrogen production.

Would CTL not lead to more consistent fuel quality? If so, it would allow car manufacturers to tighten up their tuning from the factory, potentially reducing emissions and increasing fuel economy.

John, nuclear plants take about 8.13 quads of heat to produce 780.5 billion kWh of electricity; that's an average thermal efficiency of 32.8%.

Now stop showing how ignorant you are and shut up so you can learn something.

Rafael:

CTL for transportation fuels has same advantage as nuclear for electricity: reliable domestic supply independent of political or economical turmoil. No wonder China and India actively pursuing both.

Andy,

I like those ideas. You could use gasified coal in SOFC/MCFC to generate electrical power, because CO is used as a fuel. With combined cycle, you could be over 50% efficient. However, gas shift reacting and using thermal to make H2 is good too.
I did not think India had a lot of coal, I would think NG, but I could be wrong.

SJC,
You mean >75% efficient.

I guess an SOFC with gas turbine on the output would be more than 60% and then combined cycle would make it over 70%. Now if we can just get something like this in a car, we might go 100 mpg :)

Andy: syngas doesn't get steam reformed in CTL. Instead, coal is gasified with a mixture of steam and oxygen (or air) all in one step. You might have a separate 'shift' reaction, but that's not steam reforming.

Thermal production of hydrogen with nuclear energy is not economical at this time. You might, in a large unit, use a nuke to make steam to make the gasification step use less fossil energy, but even that is dubious, especially when coal is so cheap.

allen Z:  No, he means 50%.  The cold-gas efficiency of the typical gasifier is between 75% and 80%, and you're not going to recover all of that either.  You may be able to squeak past 70% total, but it's going to require a lot of very clever engineering and expensive energy recovery equipment from e.g. syngas cooling.

So, with gasification loses and trigeneration we may reach 60% electrical overall. That is still about twice what a standard coal steam plant gets. I would rather charge my BEV with one of these and call it Greener.

Oh, me too.  And the BEV or PHEV can also use wind, solar and nuclear power.  The faster we get them, the better off we'll be.

An Engineer -

1) Oil prices can gyrate wildly over a period of e.g. 20 years, which is how long it takes for this type of installation to amortize. There is no certainty they will remain at present levels for a long time, though I share your hope that they will. OPEC is interested in a high price, but not if it promotes alternatives such as CTL that cut into their market share. I would expect e.g. Saidi Arabia to drill more wellheads if and when they perceive the enthusiasm for alternatives to be a threat to their business model.

2) India is very much concerned about the population health effects of its road transportation fleet, as evidenced by its policy to track European emissions regulations for cars and trucks with just a few years of delay. The bigger problem are two- and three-wheelers with two-stroke engines, which accounted for 80% of the Indian on-road fleet in 2001:

http://www.dieselnet.com/standards/in/
http://www.asiandevbank.org/Documents/Events/2001/RETA5937/Hanoi/documents/06_Chaudhari.pdf

xTL synthetic diesel features cetane numbers well above 70, compared to 51 for European petrodiesel. That means xTL substantially reduces particulate emissions. NOx is a different matter though, as it is formed in the very hot flame fronts. In other words, it is mostly a consequence of the combustion process, not the fuel properties.

3) While it is easier to accomplish this if the feedstock is completely gasified (e.g. F-T process) than in a regular petroleum refinery, it is still harder (= more expensive) to achieve ultra-low levels in the fuel if the feedstock is high in sulphur to begin with.

Of course, using domestic coal rather than imported oil insulates an economy from the volatility of the world oil market to some extent. This reduces the macroeconomic and military risks, which could outweigh the additional cost of xTL technology.

Oil prices can gyrate wildly over a period of e.g. 20 years, which is how long it takes for this type of installation to amortize.

That depends on the price of oil. The IRR obtained for that study of Wyoming PRB coal CTL was in excess of 100%/year at the price oil was at for much of last year.

CTL could be cost effective, it depends on the cost of coal and the price of fuel. Sequestering CO2 for algae may be easier with CTL than coal fired power plants. So, they could make diesel with CTL and then make diesel with algae fed with the CO2 from making the CTL.

3) While it is easier to accomplish this if the feedstock is completely gasified (e.g. F-T process) than in a regular petroleum refinery, it is still harder (= more expensive) to achieve ultra-low levels in the fuel if the feedstock is high in sulphur to begin with.
The way I understand it is that you need to eliminate ~ALL sulfur after gasification, to prevent poisoning of the F-T catalysts. Expensive? Maybe, but necessary and thus inherently part of G/F-T fuels.

I would expect e.g. Saidi Arabia to drill more wellheads if and when they perceive the enthusiasm for alternatives to be a threat to their business model.
Remains to be seen how much excess capacity the Saudi's have, and how easy it is to use it. And cranking up production will upset may of their allies in OPEC, especially those who cannot crank up production. We'll find out in due course...

The way I understand it is that you need to eliminate ~ALL sulfur after gasification, to prevent poisoning of the F-T catalysts.

Depends on the catalyst. The cobalt catalysts (Syntroleum, Shell, Sasol) are more sensitive than the iron catalysts (Rentech), I understand. Also, IIRC, MoS2 can be used as a catalyst to make ethanol, and it mostly immune to sulfur poisoning.

Paul,
You may be right, but SASOL seems to suggest that their synthetic fuels are essentially free of sulfur. Knowing SASOL and South Africa's lax air quality laws, they are not doing it to satisfy the government or anybody else. I suspect they do it to help the catalysts and perhaps for other process reasons.

BTW, if the catalyst is not sensitive to sulfur, in what form would the sulfur come out of F-T? If it is H2S is should still be easy to capture and dispose of.

Or burn it with the off-gas and scrub the SO2.

BTW, if the catalyst is not sensitive to sulfur, in what form would the sulfur come out of F-T?

I think you'd still scrub most of the sulfur from the syngas, just to avoid creation of thiols and other sulfur-containing organic compounds. You wouldn't want your fuel to stink like a skunk.

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