History of Gasification
  Gasification plant in Sasolburgh, South Africa
  Sasol I
Gasification plant in Sasolburgh, South Africa 
(source: Sasol)

Post WWII Development

Following World War II, many countries had access to large supplies of low-cost gasoline and diesel fuel resulting in a decreased role for gasification as a means of energy production.  However, South Africa's political and geographic isolation led to the development of a large coal-to-liquid fuels industry. In 1950, the South African government sponsored the South African Coal, Oil and Gas Corporation Limited's (SASOL) construction of a gasification plant (SASOL I) which used both American and German processes to produce diesel fuel, medium octane gasoline, liquefied petroleum gas, and a number of chemicals. Following operational improvements to increase plant efficiency and economics, processes were developed to produce synthetic
rubber, fertilizers and other secondary chemicals.1

South Africa continued to expand its gasification facilities with the construction of Sasol II in 1980 and Sasol III in1982, resulting from an oil crisis which threatened to decrease its oil supply from the Middle East.1

In the United States, interest in gasification was renewed in the 1970s due to natural gas shortages and the decreased access to petroleum products in part due to the Arab Oil Embargos in 1973 and 1979.  This resulted in government funded research on gasification technology for both power and liquid fuels production.  In 1984, the first integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) demonstration near Barstow, California, at the Cool Water IGCC demonstration project began producing electricity through coal gasification.2

Using Federal loan guarantees, a consortium of energy companies built the Great Plains Gasification Plant, which produced synthetic natural gas from North Dakota lignite beginning in 1984. However, the collapse in world oil prices in the mid 1980s again diverted attention away from gasification because cheaper petroleum supplies were once again available.3

In 1983, Eastman Chemicals commercialized a first-of-the-kind coal gasification plant in the United States producing chemicals. The plant was expanded in the early 1990s. Over the last 25 years of operation, Eastman has successfully demonstrated both the performance and economics of the plant.

Historical Overview of the South African Chemical Industry: 1896-2002
Fact Sheet – Cool Water Coal Gasification Program: First Integrated Gasification-Combined
Cycle System in the United States printed by the Cool Water Coal Gasification Program
Impacts of Energy Research and Development, Energy Information Administration

Gasification Background


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