January 3

China tests world’s largest, 600,000-ton, coal-to-ethanol production plant


The world’s largest plant that converts coal into ethanol has begun its test runs at a facility in southeastern China, local media has reported. The technology developed by the Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics (DICP) is the only in the world to have reached the industrial level so far.

The world is looking to phase out fossil fuels in the coming decades in a bid to reduce global emissions. China, which has traditionally relied on coal for its industrial growth, has invested heavily in renewable energy as it looks to meet more than 80 percent of its energy demand from non-fossil fuels by 2060.

Even as the adoption of electric vehicles is on the rise in the country, anhydrous ethanol, which can be blended with petrol, is being used to improve exhaust emissions. For best results, the ethanol has to be 99.5 percent pure and is produced using crops such as corn, cassava, sugar beet, or sugar cane in the US and Brazil.

China’s response to ethanol demand

According to the South China Morning Post (SCMP), China’s annual demand for ethanol is 10 million tonnes. The country was able to produce 2.7 million tonnes of ethanol last year through fermentation of aged grain. However, the significant shortfall from its requirement meant that the country ended up importing the remaining alcohol.

Ethanol is also an important feedstock for various chemical processes since it can be transformed into ethylene, from which other products can be derived. China’s ethanol production demands from corn or sugar cane also compete with the crop grown to feed its large populace. Grain prices have been on the rise in China, forcing it to look for non-crop alternatives to make ethanol.

Coal to ethanol

The DICP has developed DMTE, a process that can generate methanol from coke oven gas, which is then made to react with other materials to generate ethanol. Coke oven gas is a by-product of coke production, which uses low-grade coal as a starting material, something China has in abundance.

Energy News Beat 


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