Intellectual Thoughts by Sanjay Panda: Energy CTL Technology - Tough Choice

Energy CTL Technology - Tough Choice

Companies are sparring for the maiden coal to liquids (CTL) project, which is expected to produce 80,000 barrels of oil a day . As the government is zeroing in on a private player who would offer the best technology, the Tatas have written to the government about “technology risks” associated with the technology adopted by Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries (RIL).

RIL has technological partnership with US-based Headwaters Energy services, while Tatas have a tie up with Sasol, the South African company that pioneered the CTL concept way back in 1955.

While Headwaters uses its proprietary direct coal liquefaction process, Sasol adopts the indirect coal liquefaction method using the ‘Fischer-Tropsch’ process. In the former approach, the coal is dissolved in a solvent at high temperature and pressure, the latter gasifies the coal and then condenses it to form petroleum products. Nothing is clear though about which is the best and proven method.

CTL technology is still not proven on a large scale, but there is vigorous R&D going on globally in this area. India is considering using Headwaters’ technology, but Sasol seems to have an edge after Tatas mentioned in their letter that China has recently pulled out of a deal with Headwaters.


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