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Kazakhstan explores coal-to-oil opportunities 22 октября 2014, 15:56

Kazakhstan Minister of Energy said that the country was considering producing synthetic oil from coal.
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Photo courtesy of polbilding.pl Photo courtesy of polbilding.pl

Kazakhstan is studying the possibility of processing coal into synthetic oil, Tengrinews correspondent reports citing Energy Minister Vladimir Shkolnik, who spoke at a Majilis, the lower chamber of the Kazakh Parliament, meeting dedicated to introducing innovations into programs on subsoil users and increasing Kazakh content in the country's energy projects.

"Geologically our reserves of coal are about 300 billion tons, whereas proven reserves are 34 billion tons. This is an incredible potential. I just want to say to all the oil companies that this is a serious competition to the oil and gas sector. Now there are new technologies of gas chemical processing of coal. And when I look at how science is developing – it is simply incredible: factories that produce about 600-700 liters of synthetic oil from a ton of coal are already in place. The payoff period, return on investment is two or three year, four years at most,” Schkolnik said.

There are a number of ways synthetic oil can be produced from coal or gas. But generally, liquid fuel is produced from a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen. The mixture is obtained in gasification of solid raw materials (e.g. coal) or by transforming natural gas.

Back in 2012, it was announced that Kazakhstani scientists have developed a new technology for production of oil from coal.
Valentina Yemelyanova, project manager and deputy director of the Scientific-Research Institute of New Chemical Technologies and Materials of Al-Farabi Kazakh State University said that the new invention allowed synthesizing oil from coal by adding hydrogen. The synthesis process used accelerants and a relatively low pressure, around 50atm. Foreign scientists make synthetic oil at the pressure of around 300atm, whereas Kazakhstan's technology significantly decreases energy consumption during the synthesis.

Schkolnik did not specify whether this was the technology to be used in the future, but he boasted that the new process would allow producing oil in the amounts equaling “several Kashagans”. Kashagan is an gigantic oil and gas field  located in the Kazakhstan's section of the Caspian Sea shelf. Its reserves are estimated at 38 billion barrels, with recoverable reserves standing at 13 billion barrels.  

“Turgay basin alone has 60 billion tons of coal, and by turning it into synthetic crude oil through processing, in the future of course, we will generate the resources that are comparable with several Kashagans. We are dealing and must be dealing with this question. This is a very promising area, just as the oil and gas industry of our country," he said.

Kazakhstan is already putting its coal of a lot of uses. It has been producing around 120 thousand tons of coal a year. According to the Minister, 74 percent of electricity produced in Kazakhstan is generated by burning coal. Coal is used in by-product coke industry and to provide heating and hot water. About 30% of the coal produced in Kazakhstan is exported.

Reporting by Renat Tashkinbayev, writing by Dinara Urazova

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