Coal Gasification

How can we reduce the environmental impact of coal gasification?

Improving Coal
Gasification Technology

While the vast majority of our coal is burned at conventional coal-fired power plants, coal can also be turned into a gas for conversion into electricity, hydrogen, and other energy products. Coal gasification is a thermo-chemical process in which heat and pressure break down coal into its basic chemical constituents. The resulting “syngas” is comprised primarily of carbon monoxide and hydrogen, and occasionally other gaseous compounds. Syngas can be used for electricity production, used in energy-efficient fuel cell technology, or as chemical “building blocks” for industrial purposes. The hydrogen can also be extracted for use in fueling a hydrogen economy. These developments are ongoing, and researchers continue to focus on improving coal gasification technology to realize these and other potential applications for the future.

Since 2008, CAER has been working closely with its collaborators to design, fabricate and install a full-chain coal and biomass to liquid hydrocarbon conversion train (facility), that includes feedstock handling – hydromill and slurry preparation tank, a 40 kg/hr coal flowrate, oxygen-blown, slurry-feed and molten slag entrained gasifier, an iron-based water-gas shift reactor, syngas compression (up to 30 bars), an aqueous-based acid gas cleanup unit, and a micro-channel Fischer-Tropsch system at approximately 1 barrel per day. The plant complex also includes ancillary systems for power generation, utilities, effluent treatment, ash disposal, and automated control systems. In order to maximize flexibility, the facility is of a modular design with skid mounted process units – and is intended to be adaptable to change-out of equipment and capabilities.

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The Department of Energy says a coal gasification plant can potentially achieve an efficiency of 50 percent or more, compared with a conventional coal power plant, which is often just above 30 percent.

Source: What is Coal Gasification?

Current Projects

Currently, CAER is undertaking four projects to investigate the flexibility of unit operation to respond the external load and fuel variation, and identify components/units suitable for standardization and modularization to reduce the capital cost associated with distributed and remoted application.

  • DE-FC26-08NT05988: “Design & Construction of Coal/Biomass to Liquids Process Development Unit at the University of Kentucky Center for Applied Energy Research”;
  • DE-FC26-12FE0010482: “Small-scale pilot plant for the gasification of coal and coal/biomass blends and conversion of derives syngas to liquid fuels via Fischer-Tropsch synthesis”
  • DE-FE0031506: “Staged-OMB for Modularized Gasifier”
  • DE-FE0031520: “Gasification Combined Heat and Power From Coal Fines”


Can we create a cost-effective
carbon capture technology?

Learn more about carbon capture ›

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