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Soaring demand for power and desire for greater energy self sufficiency, countries such as China are now investing in alternative source of energy. China, with abundant coal reserves is now leading the way in coal gasification technologies. Also in other parts of the world, rising energy prices have forced to search for alternative sources, such as the United States with the exploitation of shale gas. The gasification process involves the gasification of coal or natural gas to produce a variety of fuels such as diesel and gasoline or chemicals such as ammonia or methanol. This growing need for alternate energy sources is increasing demand for industrial and specialty gases such as oxygen and nitrogen. China is increasingly using coal to produce syngas, which is used as a fuel additive in gasoline.

China has already planned to build around fifty coal gasification plants in north-western parts of the country. Among 50 plants planned, 80% of the plants are planned in northwest China, in the provinces of Xinjiang, western Inner Mongolia, Ningxia and Gansu. In mid of 2012, Praxair China has started up a large air separation plant, with a capacity of three thousand tons per day, in Wuwei, Anhui province to supply oxygen, nitrogen, and clean air to the coal gasification and other coal based chemicals project of Anhui HuaYi Chemical Co., Ltd. Earlier in 2011, Air Products and Chemicals has started building an air separation unit and integrated liquefier in the Nanjing Chemicals Industrial Park in Nanjing, China. Air Products has won a long-term contract to supply oxygen and nitrogen to Wison (Nanjing) Clean Energy Ltd., Inc.’s coal to syngas gasification facility in Nanjing.

In the year 2012, Linde Greater China, a subsidiary of The Linde Group, has started its first coal gasification project by signing an agreement with Dahua Group to establish a joint venture to operate and manage the gasification facilities in Songmu Island, Dalian. According to Prof. Dr Aldo Belloni, of Linde AG “Coal gasification provides significant economic and environmental benefits which can help meet the growing demand for clean energy nowadays.” Another industrial, medical and specialty gases industry leader, Air Liquide, also won a contract from Fujian Shenyuan New Materials Company to supply industrial gases for its caprolactam production project in 2013 and is expected to be commissioned by 2016. Air Liquide’s planned industrial gases complex include an air separation unit with a capacity of 2,000 tons per day of oxygen, a gasification unit, a purification unit of synthesis gas and an ammonia plant to supply hydrogen, nitrogen and ammonia.

Large-scale gasification plants and the oxygen-based gas-to-liquids, coal-to-liquids and coal-to-chemicals plants consume enormous quantities of oxygen. Certainly, coal gasification is one of the main drivers that create significant demand for industrial and specialty gases. According to ‘Industry Experts’, a global market research company, Chinese industrial, medical and specialty gases market is one of the fastest growing market in Asia-Pacific region with an estimated compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10.8% between 2014 and 2020 to reach a market value of US$11.4 billion by 2020.