Hyderabad: Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited's (BHEL) research and development centre at Hyderabad successfully demonstrated India's first indigenously designed high ash coal gasification-based Methanol production plant.

Methanol is used as motor fuel to power ship engines and to generate clean power all over the world. It is also used to generate di-methyl ether, a liquid fuel that is very similar to diesel. Existing diesel engines can undergo minimal changes to use DME instead of diesel.

The majority of worldwide methanol production is derived from natural gas which is a relatively easy process. Since India doesn't have many natural gas reserves, producing methanol from imported natural gas leads to the outflow of foreign exchange and is sometimes uneconomical due to excessive prices of natural gas.

The next best option is to use India's abundant coal. However, due to the high ash percentage of Indian coal, most internationally accessible technology will not be adequate for the country's demands.

To address this issue, BHEL R&D centre at Hyderabad started working on Indian high ash coal gasification in 2016 with support from NITI Aayog to produce 0.25 ton of methanol per day. The project was supported by the department of science and technology with a Rs. 10 crore grant. Within four years, BHEL successfully launched a facility to create 0.25 ton per day (TPD) methanol from high ash Indian coal using a 1.2 TPD fluidized bed gasifier. The methanol purity of the crude methanol produced is between 98 and 99.5 per cent.

During this inaugural run which took place on Wednesday, NITI Aayog member Dr. V.K Saraswat, BHEL chairman Nalin Shinghal, and BHEL's coal gasification team were present to witness India's first demonstration plant of its kind, designed entirely in-house to work on high-ash Indian coal.

Dr. Saraswat said, "This endeavor led to the formation of in-house design expertise in BHEL for designing greater capacity coal gasification facilities, which will provide the necessary impetus to our Prime Minister's vision of 'Atam Nirbhar Bharat'. This in-house capability will assist India's coal gasification mission and coal to hydrogen production for hydrogen mission."

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