In this post, I give an overview of developments in China to create a coal to chemicals industry, primarily using methanol as an intermediary feedstock. In doing this research, to my surprise, I found that the Chinese chemical economy is advancing rapidly in its use of coal as a chemical feedstock, as opposed to crude oil in other countries. In many cases, coal already represents 20% or more of chemical feedstocks, and in special cases such as PVC, the country already sources virtually all of its input from coal. Since China produces 20% of the world’s PVC, such transitions have a substantial impact on the global energy system.
The primary raw chemical input produced from coal is methanol, which is produced through coal gasification and subsequently, methanol synthesis and refining (see picture below for overview of process steps).