Increasing concerns over the finite availability of fossil fuels, coupled with rising levels of atmospheric pollution has largely fueled the need to reduce dependency on them. Syngas is emerging as a promising alternative to fossil fuels, resulting in significant growth of the global syngas and derivative market. Syngas is a mixture of carbon monoxide, hydrogen and carbon dioxide, majorly finding application as fuel and manufacturing of other chemicals. Some of the end-user industries where syngas is finding application are Power Generation, Chemicals, Liquid fuels and gaseous fuels.
According to experts, chemicals will be the leading end-user segment in the market. Also, given the importance of the climatic change across the globe; Petcoke or Visbreaker unit-derived syngas is predicted to replace natural gas in many areas. Some of the large applications are also currently under construction (Canada, India and Saudi Arabia).
In technology, biomass gasification, steam reforming and partial oxidation are being employed currently for producing syngas and derivatives. Among these, biomass gasification is the most employed technology, and the demand is predicted to be strongest globally in the coming few years as well. This is primarily due to its ability to convert organic carbonaceous materials into syngas. The use of steam reform is likely to rise in forthcoming years, and partial oxidation is anticipated to have a low increase in demand.
The worldwide market for syngas and derivatives in the coming few years is predicted to be dominated by the Asia Pacific region due to the huge availability of coal and natural gas reserves in the area. Reduced manufacturing costs and economic sourcing has empowered the vendors in this region to have a low-cost advantage, which in turn have allowed them to increase the number of installations and a profound market share. China is projected to lead the bandwagon in the region for the coming few years, thanks to the various government policies and large primary energy consumption. There are multiple plants that are coming up in India, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan and Singapore. Middle East & Africa markets are next in the line and are predicted to witness a strong growth given the growing utilization of syngas for generating power and electricity. The growth in North America, Europe and Latin America is however likely to be sluggish.
To conclude, the global syngas market is anticipated to grow strongly in the coming decade, and there are five future trends that are important. Firstly, U.S., India, and Iran are the largest growth areas for natural gas-based syngas capacity additions. Secondly, carbon capture and storage being expensive commercial realities, efficiency improvements and innovations such as integrated fuel cells are seen as necessary for IGCC to compete. This looks very unlikely in the U.S. context though, and no new coal-based IGCC proposals have been there in the last five years. Thirdly, downscaling of gas-to-liquids and gas-to methanol by a handful of developers may offer opportunities for monetizing stranded/remote natural gas; these are in the early stage presently. Fourthly, the global methanol demand will be expected to see an unprecedented growth till 2026, and China and US are expected to lead the capacity additions in this. And lastly, coal is all set to emerge as dominant syngas feedstock before 2020. A large part of capacity addition expected through coal gasification, largely in China, and about one-third of capacity is already under construction.
Author: Pratik Patra
Pratik is a Writer, Artist, and Technocrat from India. He is an engineer from IIT Bombay and is currently pursuing his MBA from XIMB.