India develops technology to convert high ash coal to methanol

India has developed indigenous technology to convert high ash local coal to methanol and established its first pilot plant in Hyderabad. This technology will help the country move towards the adoption of cleaner technology and promote the use of methanol as a transportation fuel (blending with petrol), thus reducing crude oil imports.

The broad process of converting coal into methanol consists of conversion of coal to synthesis (syngas) gas, syngas cleaning and conditioning, syngas to methanol conversion, and methanol purification. Coal to methanol plants in most countries are operated with low ash coals. Handling of high ash and heat required to melt this high amount of ash is a challenge in the case of Indian coal, which generally has high ash content.
In order to overcome this challenge, Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL) has developed the fluidised bed gasification technology suitable for high ash Indian coals to produce syngas and then convert syngas to methanol with 99 per cent purity. BHEL has integrated its existing coal to syngas pilot plant at Hyderabad with suitable downstream process for converting syngas into methanol. This pilot-scale project with a methanol generation capacity of 0.25 metric tons per day has been initiated by NITI Aayog and funded by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) under Clean Energy Research Initiative.
Currently, the pilot plant is producing methanol with purity of more than 99 per cent. Scaling it up will help in optimum utilisation of the country’s energy reserves and accelerate its journey towards self-reliance, says a ministry of science and technology release.