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Major and fast-developing economies such as China, India and the USA are using coal gasification technology to help unlock the value of their vast coal reserves more cleanly than conventional methods.
Our coal gasification technology turns coal and coke into synthesis gas, known as syngas. This mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide burns as cleanly as natural gas and can go into generating power, or making chemicals or fertilisers.
Coal gasification plants can produce a concentrated, high-pressure stream of CO2 ready for capture and storage underground.
Shell gasification process
Piling coal at the Yueyang coal gasification plant, China.
Our gasification process transports pulverised coal and compressed nitrogen into a gasifier. Here the coal mixes with oxygen at 1,400-1,600°C (2,552-2,912°F) to produce syngas.
Coal gasification also creates useful by-products – fly ash for the cement industry, sulphur for fertiliser manufacture and for chemical applications, and slag for building materials and for roads.
In most other gasification processes, the extremely high temperature inside the gasifier damages the heat-resistant brick walls. Operators must routinely replace the walls and this requires shutdowns, reducing efficiency.
In a Shell coal gasifier a layer of water-filled pipes helps to keep the walls cool and prevent prevent damage. They are insulated by hot slag that forms from the melting ash, acting as a barrier between the cooler water and the heat in the furnace.
Shell started gasification research in the 1950s. We further developed the technology in the 1970s and added coal to the range of raw materials. Today we can adapt our technology to coal of different qualities.
The first commercial-scale plant using our coal gasification technology started up in 1993 at the integrated gasification combined cycle power plant in Buggenum, the Netherlands. To date, we have sold 27 licences around the world, including in China, Vietnam, the United Kingdom, Australia, the Netherlands, and South Korea.
China has the world’s second largest reserves of coal and they provide 70% of the country’s energy. Twelve power plants here use our gasification technology.
We have also developed technology for oil/residue gasification and for gas gasification, which we are using in the Pearl Gas to liquids project in Qatar.