Air products eyeing $ 10 billion investment in coal gasification projects in India: Senior VP

New Delhi (Natural Energy News): Coal-to-chemical and coal-to-transportation fuels are a long-established business and our technology has a leading position in the world.

The Prime Minister recently said that by 2030, Rs 20,000 crore will be invested in coal gasification projects. US-based global industrial gas company Air Products believes the government's decision is the right step towards environmentally friendly use of fuel, which is available in abundance in the country. Seeing the right opportunities, the company is looking to invest up to $ 10 billion in the region in the country.

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Richard Bokok, Commercial Vice President of Air Products in India, tells Anupam Chatterjee of FE how the $ 65 billion company plans to strengthen its presence in the country. Excerpts:

What factors make up the case for coal gasification in India?

Coal-to-chemical and coal-to-transportation fuels are a long-established business and our technology has a leading position in the world. It is being implemented in China on a large scale, and we think the opportunities in India are in line with many important messages from Make in India and self-reliant India like Prime Minister Narendra Modi. This can play a very important role in overall energy and economy strategies for India and presents an important opportunity to use coal, otherwise, it has no value as long as it remains in the ground. Also, when you gasify a substance, you avoid particulate emissions, which is obviously a big problem when you burn coal. You also avoid sulfur dioxide emissions because sulfur can be captured and ash becomes a valuable by-product of the process.

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What kind of policy support does the industry need to promote coal gasification?

Recent announcements of reforms in the development of coal reserves are important steps for the type of policy direction required for coal gasification. I think one of the other areas would be land allocation. This will help whether the land can be allocated for a gasification facility in very close proximity to the coal mine. We have been working in India for 21 years and are happy with the experience. Apart from setting up our engineering facilities in Pune and Vadodara, we have invested $ 500 million in our Kochi facility which supplies various types of industrial gases to BPCL. We are very happy with this investment. From that experience, it makes us feel very positive about investing 5-10 billion dollars in India over the next few years if we are presented with the right opportunities.

Can you give us an idea about the scope of coal gasification business?

To gasify coal there is scope to convert it into a clean syrup or synthesis gas, which is simply a mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide and constitutes the basic building block of the chemical industry. A simple rule of thumb is that about 2.5 tons of coal will flow one ton. So, if we were making methanol, for example, about 2.5 tons of coal would produce about 1 ton of methanol. Of course, there will be changes based on downstream products. When you convert your coal to Synagus in a clean and efficient manner, you can convert it to a wide range of downstream products. And it enables India to be more self-sufficient and reduce imports of those chemicals.

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What kind of investment is required to set up such production units?

A typical world-scale gasification facility requires an investment of approximately $ 2 billion and can produce between 1 and 2 million tons of methanol a year, which would require gasification of 2 to 5 million tons of coal. While we have a lot of technology, our priority is not simply to license that technology because our very strong priority is to build, own and operate the facility. Therefore, in the case of gasification facilities in India, our proposal is not only to bring our technology but to build, own and operate entire units.

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