The quickly growing Chinese economy has given rise to an increasing number of coal-to-chemical facilities,—85 plants came online from 2004 to 2014 making chemicals or ammonia—and many planned for the near future. Refer to the China Gasification Database for a list of existing and planned plants in China which are using or will use coal gasification to produce chemicals, fertilizers, power, etc. China, like the United States, has large domestic coal supplies and large demand for products like ammonia-based fertilizers and methanol, for direct use and as a building block in other chemical syntheses. The China Gasification Database 2014 lists 115 operating plants in China that convert coal and petroleum residues into a variety of chemicals, fertilizers, and gaseous or liquids fuels, while projections considering planned plants and plants under construction have 68 new plants to be built in China, all processing coal, with most of these to produce ammonia, methanol, fuels and other chemicals.
Considerably less activity is occurring in the United States in terms of new development of coal-based chemicals production; a few projects which would produce at least some chemical products among the product slate, such as Faustina CTC, may still go forward. For up-to-date information on any coal-based chemicals production capacity under development in the United States, refer to the periodically updated U.S. Gasification Database.
Eastman Chemical Company Kingsport Plant
One of the earliest and most notable coal gasification-based chemical plants in the United States is owned and operated by Eastman Chemical Company and based in Kingsport, Tennessee. The plant produces acetyl chemicals; acetic acid and acetic anhydride are commonly used in pharmaceutical and industrial applications and can be processed into products like paints, fibers, photographic film, tool handles, cigarette filters and more.
The Eastman Integrated Coal Gasification facility, first opened in 1983, was designed to process syngas from the gasification of Southwest Virginia and Eastern Kentucky coal, using what is now GE gasification technology. The intermediate products of syngas conversion are methanol and CO; these are further converted into products consisting of 500 million pounds per year of acetic anhydride and acetic acid, enough to supply half of Eastman’s raw acetyl needs. Acetyl chemicals are important to many of Eastman’s products, but especially those at the Kingsport site, where five of seven manufacturing divisions rely on acetyls as a raw material. The success of the operation led to a decision to expand the plant capacity to an excess of 1 billion pounds per year to meet allof Eastman's needs, a testament to the ability of gasification to reliably, economically, and efficiently meet the coal-to-chemical requirements of Eastman's Kingsport facility.
Shanghai Coking, Huayi Group Coal-to-Chemicals Plant
Located in Shanghai, the Huayi Group's facility is one of the earliest and most successful of the now numerous coal-to-chemical plants in China. Partnered with Praxair for air separation technology and currently using GE gasifiers, it produces 800 kilotons (kt) methanol and 500 kt glacial acetic acid (glacial means undiluted with water). The plant brought in $4.68 billion in revenue in 2007 and intends to develop further downstream processes to balance acetic acid production and to manufacture products like olefins, dimethyl ether, and others.