In a groundbreaking move towards sustainable energy, China has initiated test runs at the world’s largest coal-to-ethanol plant, developed by the Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics (DICP). As the world aims to phase out fossil fuels, China’s ambitious goals include meeting over 80 percent of its energy demand from non-fossil sources by 2060.
Historically dependent on coal for industrial growth, China has invested significantly in renewable energy, aligning with global efforts to curb emissions. While electric vehicles gain traction, anhydrous ethanol, with its capacity to enhance exhaust emissions when blended with petrol, remains a crucial component. The DICP’s technology, known as DMTE, stands as the sole industrial-level solution globally, marking a significant leap in ethanol production from coal.
According to the South China Morning Post (SCMP), China’s annual ethanol demand stands at 10 million tonnes. Despite producing 2.7 million tonnes through fermentation last year, the country faced a substantial shortfall, leading to ethanol imports. The DMTE process, converting coke oven gas—a by-product of coke production—into ethanol, offers a viable alternative, potentially saving millions of tonnes of grain annually. This shift from grain to gas aligns with China’s strategy to mitigate rising grain prices.
The DMTE pathway, under development for over a decade, underwent refinements, resulting in cost reduction through the replacement of expensive catalysts with economical metals. This technological advancement places China at the forefront, having successfully implemented coal-to-ethanol technology on an industrial scale. Test runs at a 500,000-tonne facility in June, employing domestically produced equipment, mark a pivotal moment in large-scale ethanol production.
DICP’s involvement in setting up a 600,000-tonne facility in Huaibei, Anhui province, in collaboration with Shaanxi Yanchang Petroleum Group, underscores the global impact of this innovation. Trial runs at this facility, geared for extensive ethanol production, reveal the versatility of the approach, enabling ethanol generation from natural gas or emissions released by steel plants. China’s strides in industrial innovation present a promising future for sustainable energy solutions on a global scale.