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. Refer to the China Gasification Database for a list of existing and planned plants in China based on 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 listed 115 operating plants in China that convert coal and petroleum residues into a variety of chemicals, fertilizers, and gaseous or liquids fuels, with projections for more.
In the United States, new gasification-based production based on coal has generally not moved forward given low natural gas prices, though some smaller biomass gasification based projects may find traction in the current market. The U.S. Gasification Database lists various projects in planning stages.
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 the forerunner of the Air Products slurry 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 all of 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 at the time with Praxair (now Linde) for air separation technology and currently using Air products type slurry gasifiers, it produces 800 kilotons (kt) methanol and 500 kt glacial acetic acid. 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.