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The ninth European Gasification Conference returns to Germany in March 2009, with the chemical engineering community and IChemE (Institution of Chemical Engineers) backing the new technology.

The conference, Clean Energy and Chemicals, takes place in Dusseldorf on 23-25 March and, despite recent decisions by both the US and UK governments that have hampered the technology’s progress, senior figures within chemical engineering said gasification technologies will play a major role in plans to reduce global carbon emissions.

Gasification enables a wide range of energy sources including coal, biomass and residual oils to be converted into environmentally-friendly chemicals and fuels.

Most of the effluents normally created in atmospheric burning plants are caught before combustion and converted into useful by-products, or captured for safe storage.

The process is considered an important step in converting coal to substitute natural gas (SNG) and cleaner transportation fuels, including those suitable for aviation.

But in the US, the Futuregen project to build and operate a 100 per cent carbon capturing power station by 2013 was fragmented by the abandonment of the single project in favour of support for a number of smaller demonstration CCS (Carbon Capture and Storage) units.

In the UK, pre-combustion capture schemes were excluded from the DECC (Department of Energy and Climate Change) competition, designed to have a demonstration scale CCS plant in operation by 2014.

Despite these hurdles, there remains a growing international dimension to gasification projects.

In China, numerous projects are being built for the production of chemicals and power, using both indigenous and imported gasification systems.

Canada is closely watching the initial operation of its first commercial gasification plant in Alberta and the new US leadership offers the opportunity for the re-examination of the role of gasification in coal-based power plants.

IChemE (Institution of Chemical Engineers)

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