China Creates First Coal-to-Ethanol Production Line in the World

By | Mar 20, 2017 05:06 AM EDT
 A tank holding Ethanol, a fuel additive, is seen at a fuel tank farm in the Global Petroleum facility April 27, 2006 in Boston, Massachusetts.

A tank holding Ethanol, a fuel additive, is seen at a fuel tank farm in the Global Petroleum facility April 27, 2006 in Boston, Massachusetts.(Photo : Getty Images)

China is the first country in the world to establish a production line that converts coal into ethanol, which is the main chemical ingredient in alcohol, according to the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

The facility, which started its operation in January, is expected to yield over 100,000 metric tons of pure ethanol annually. The project, which was developed by the academy's Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics and Shaanxi Yanchang Petroleum Group, is situated in Xingping, Shaanxi province.

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China already produces around 7 million tons of ethanol annually; however, Liu Zhongmin, deputy director of the institute, said that the figure is not enough to meet China's industrial and energy needs. In fact, the country plans to open another production line by the end of the decade, producing an overall annual capacity of 1 million tons per year.

"Most countries produce ethanol using foods like corn or sugar cane, but this is not a viable option for China because of its massive population," Liu said. "By turning our abundant coal resources into ethanol, the technology will safeguard energy and food security."

Liu also stressed that such coal-to-ethanol production line project could make China's industrial market and energy structure more environment-friendly.

Meanwhile, Zhu Fang, deputy director of information and marketing for the China Petroleum Chemical Industry Federation, raised doubts of ethanol's ability to transform China's energy structure, reported. He stressed that ethanol fuel could no longer be cost-effective compared with crude oil since oil prices are dropping.

Other than alcoholic beverages, ethanol is also used to produce other products ranging from plastics to detergents. It could also serve as an alternative to harmful ingredients like methanol. Moreover, Liu also noted that a sufficient supply of ethanol would make ethanol-fueled vehicles more viable.

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