US MNC keen on bidding for coal gasification jobs in India

M Ramesh Chennai | Updated on August 31, 2020

Richard Boocock

Air Products & Chemicals Inc., a $ 8.9 billion US-based multinational that has operations in India too, has said it would participate in the upcoming bids for coal gasification projects in India.

“There are some opportunities being developed in India and we are expecting to be bidding on those opportunities in the next 2-3 months,” Richard Boocock, the company’s Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer, said in a telephonic conversation with Business Line today.

He said that the company was “determined to be successful” and when it does become successful, would make major investment announcements.

Air Products, also a joint venture partner in the Indian company, INOX Air Products, preferred to build, own and operate coal gasification plants, Boocock said, pointing out that the company had earlier made public its willingness to invest “$5 – 10 billion in the next 5- 10 years.”

Observing that India’s energy mainstay was coal, he said gasification of coal was a good way of using the mineral in a manner that didn’t contribute to global warming.

Asked if the company had expertise in converting Carbon dioxide into fuels such as methanol, Boocock said he preferred not to comment on it, but stressed that Air Products was “definitely working on taking CO2 and transforming it back into value added products.”

“Coal gasification is a technology for today, CO2 transformation into fuels is for tomorrow and Hydrogen as energy storage for the day-after-tomorrow,” he said.

India’s coals typically have high ash content. “A lot of people ask us if high ash content coals can be gasified. The answer is, ‘absolutely yes’,” he said. Air Products’ has technology even to gasify lignite. Responding to a question, Boocock said Air Products has had a few conversations also with NLC India, the public sector lignite mining-cum-power company based in Tamil Nadu.

Talcher project

Air Products is the technology provider for the Talcher Fertilizer Project, a government of India initiative to revive old units of Fertilizer Corporation of India. The $2 billion project, which is being implemented by a consortium of Rashtriya Chemicals and Fertilizers, GAIL, Coal India Ltd (31.85 per cent stake each) and Fertilizer Corporation of India (4.45 per cent), aims to produce Urea using syn gas produce from coal.

Boocock said that Air Products would have preferred to own the Talcher project as well, but was happy to be the technology partner, nevertheless. “The Talcher project came to us as a technology licensing opportunity—that’s fine—people have made that decision,” he said. Pertinent to note that the government has similar plans to revive three other units of Fertilizer Corporation of India as well.

A few years ago, Air Products invested half a billion dollars in setting up a facility within the refinery complex owned by BPCL in Kochi, where it produces Hydrogen, Nitrogen, Oxygen and steam. “In the next few weeks we will be bringing on stream an expansion of the project, which will also produce syn gas,” Boocock said.

Published on August 28, 2020

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