India’s first pilot plant to convert high ash coal to methanol: Basics Explained

India has developed an indigenous technology to convert high ash Indian coal to methanol and established its first pilot plant, September 2021 in Hyderabad. This technology will help the country move towards the adoption of clean technology and promote the use of methanol as a transportation fuel (blending with petrol), thus reducing crude oil imports.

The broad process of converting coal into methanol consists of conversion of coal to synthesis (syngas) gas, syngas cleaning and conditioning, syngas to methanol conversion, and methanol purification.

Coal to methanol plants in most countries are operated with low ash coals. In order to overcome this challenge, Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL) has developed the fluidized bed gasification technology suitable for high ash Indian coals to produce syngas and then convert syngas to methanol with 99% purity. BHEL has integrated its existing coal to syngas pilot plant at Hyderabad with suitable downstream process for converting syngas into methanol.

It is the best pathway for meeting India’s commitment to COP 21. aimed at reducing India’s oil import bill, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and converting coal reserves and municipal solid waste into methanol. This would bring down GHG emissions by 20% in terms of particulate matter, NOx, and SOx, thereby improving the urban air quality.


Methanol or Wood alcohol, Methyl alcohol is a low carbon, hydrogen carrier fuel produced from high ash coal, agricultural residue, CO2 from thermal power plants and natural gas.

Colorless watery liquid. Methanol is a toxic alcohol that is used industrially as a solvent, pesticide, and alternative fuel source. It also occurs naturally in humans, animals, and plants.

Ethanol (ethyl alcohol) and Methanol (methyl alcohol) are quite similar but very different. Both are alcohols, but ethanol is created from fermented starch and sugar such as found in grains while methanol is created from natural gas, coal, and biomass. Their molecular structures differ by just a few molecules, but that slight variation gives them vastly different properties. The most important difference is that ethanol is a drinkable form of alcohol, while methanol is highly toxic when consumed.

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