Gasification technology has been used for many years, with the earliest use during the late eighteenth century for the production of “town gas”, and continuing into the twentieth century. Unfortunately, the town gas plants were low temperature processes and made “coal tar” that has polluted some sites. Many people still associate gasification with the remnants of these town gas plants, where the tars have become an environmental headache for the current owners.
The technology was further developed, with many advances occurring post-World War II. Gasification is now widely deployed, especially in areas where natural gas is unavailable, as a basic chemical process for syngas production and subsequent syngas conversion to other products. It is most widely used to manufacture fertilizers.
During the last twenty years, the carbonaceous materials (feedstock) have included natural gas, light and heavy petroleum derivatives, petroleum coke, all grades of coal, and many different waste materials. The on-purpose waste material projects form a very small part of the gasification installed base and often require two other feeds: “...a stream of high BTU co-feed and a stream of money to burn.” (Reference: Maarten van der Burgt, GTC annual meeting 2004).