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What is it?

Coal is reacted with controlled amounts of oxygen and/or steam at high temperatures to produce syngas (hydrogen and carbon monoxide) which also contains carbon dioxide, methane and water vapour. Gasification involves four stages: drying, pyrolysis, combustion, and gasification reactions.

Why is it important?

This process is well understood and established at industrial scale.


  • Inputs: Coal, water, heat
  • By-products: CO2, carbon, other hydrocarbons (temperature dependent)
  • Operating temperature: >500°C
  • Energy efficiency: ~63%


  • Established industrial process
  • Other chemicals generated can be useful by-products
  • Higher hydrogen produced per unit of coal compared to coal pyrolysis
  • Cleaner hydrogen product than that obtained from coal pyrolysis


  • Impurities in syngas require further separation
  • Low thermal efficiency
  • Produces tar in product gas
  • Requires CCUS to achieve low carbon emissions
  • Remains a higher emitter of carbon dioxide than natural gas-based methods and renewable methods after CCUS is employed
  • High water usage per kilogram hydrogen produced

RD&D priorities

  • Develop and demonstrate effective means of integrating carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) to achieve zero-to-low carbon emissions
  • Develop alternatives to the cryogenic process used to separate oxygen feedstock from air
  • Improve appliance and plant design for greater flexibility in ramping up and ramping down
  • Integrate renewable energy sources. For example, concentrated solar power can act as a thermal energy source for the process
  • Establish environmentally suitable treatment of waste by-products
  • Develop cheap and effective hydrogen separation systems to obtain appropriately pure hydrogen for specific applications
  • Improve reactor design to accommodate highly exothermic or endothermic reactions (e.g. staged introduction of reagents, better designed heat transfer surfaces, process intensification, advanced materials, reaction monitoring/control, pre-treatment of waste streams)

Known active organisations

  • Curtin University
  • The University of Adelaide
  • The University of Newcastle

Other opportunities like this

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