Liquefying Coal Provides Untapped Energy Resources

The Challenge

In the People’s Republic of China, there is a tremendous amount of accessible coal, but very little availability of other fuel sources such as oil, gas, and kerosene. However, through a thermal chemical process, coal can be liquefied. Once it is in a liquid state, it can be distilled into gas oil, gasoline and kerosene. To sustain this liquid state, the temperature must be maintained from 41oF (5oC) to 113oF (45oC).  If this temperature is not sustained, the liquefied coal will revert to a solid/semi-solid state of a rope-like thickness and consequently, the processes are interrupted. In addition, these processes are highly-flammable and hazardous. The extracted fuels ultimately burn cleaner than solid coal and will assist China overall with its poor air quality. Lastly, due to demands for fuel, the plant must vastly increase its production scale from 10 to 10 million tons of oil per year.

The Solution

In this highly-explosive situation, the solution was to implement the Chromalox SR heat trace system which includes SRL and SRM/E Heat Trace Cable with DL Cable kits and RTBC-EP Explosion Proof Light Bulbs and the Explosion Proof Control Panels.

Originally, the plant considered using steam heating to maintain the temperature since the liquefaction process itself creates steam. However, when they compared the costs of installing the steam system to the Chromalox SR heat trace system, it was evident that the Chromalox system was more effective and less expensive to install and maintain.  In addition, the plant would save 75% in operating costs with the Chromalox SR heat trace system.

Furthermore, the temperature management system, control panels and SR cable are easy to use and can accurately maintain the process temperature to ensure the stability of the chemical process and the safe harvesting of the distilled fuels without fluctuation. Best of all, the SR heat trace system provides a safer working environment, whereas steam heating is prone to hazardous leakage and is a risk to plant and personnel safety. Chromalox meets the safety standards of:

  • Underwriter’s Laboratories (UL)
  • Factory Mutual and the Canadian Standards Association (CSA)
  • International Electrotechnical Commission System for the Certification to Standards relating to Equipment for use in Explosive Atmospheres (IECEx)
  • Atmosphere Explosive directives of the European Union (ATEX).

The project schedule was maintained throughout due to the Chromalox response time and the prompt shipment capability from the Chromalox Wuijang warehouse.

The Benefits

  1. Safely heating the highly volatile and hazardous chemical process of coal liquefaction
  2. Implementing control systems to increase process reliability and system safety
  3. Decreasing installation, operation and maintenance costs
  4. Maintaining expansion project schedules