Syngas (from "synthesis gas") is the name given to a gas mixture that contains varying amounts of carbon monoxide and hydrogen. Examples of production methods include steam reforming of natural gas or liquid hydrocarbons to produce hydrogen, the gasification of coal [Beychok, M.R., "Coal gasification and the Phenosolvan process", American Chemical Society 168th National Meeting, Atlantic City, September 1974] and in some types of waste-to-energy gasification facilities. The name comes from their use as intermediates in creating synthetic natural gas (SNG) [Beychok, M.R., "Process and environmental technology for producing SNG and liquid fuels", U.S. EPA report EPA-660/2-75-011, May 1975] and for producing ammonia or methanol. Syngas is also used as an intermediate in producing synthetic petroleum for use as a fuel or lubricant via Fischer-Tropsch synthesis and previously the Mobil methanol to gasoline process.

Syngas consists primarily of hydrogen, carbon monoxide, and very often some carbon dioxide, and has less than half the energy density of natural gas. Syngas is combustible and often used as a fuel source or as an intermediate for the production of other chemicals.


Syngas for use as a fuel is most often produced by gasification of coal, biomass or municipal waste mainly by the following paths:

:C + H2OCO + H2

:C + O2CO2:CO2 + C → 2CO

When used as an intermediate in the large-scale, industrial synthesis of hydrogen and ammonia, it is also produced from natural gas (via the steam reforming reaction) as follows:

:CH4 + H2OCO + 3 H2

The syngas produced in large waste-to-energy gasification facilities can be used to generate electricity.

Coal gasification processes were used for many years to manufacture illuminating gas (coal gas) for gas lighting, before electric lighting became widely available.

Post treatment

Syngas can be used in the Fischer-Tropsch process to produce diesel, or converted into methane and dimethyl ether in catalytic processes.

If the syngas is post treated by cryogenic processing, it should be taken into account that this technology has great difficulty in recovering pure carbon monoxide if relatively large volumes of nitrogen are present due to carbon monoxide and nitrogen having very similar boiling points which are -191.5 °C and -195.79 °C respectively. Certain process technology selectively removes carbon monoxide by complexation/decomplexation of carbon monoxide with cuprous aluminum chloride (CuAlCl4), dissolved in an organic liquid such as toluene. The purified carbon monoxide can have a purity greater than 99%, which makes it a good feedstock for the chemical industry. The reject gas from the system can contain carbon dioxide, nitrogen, methane, ethane and hydrogen. The reject gas can be further processed on a pressure swing adsorption system to remove hydrogen and the hydrogen and carbon dioxide can be recombined in the proper ratio for catalytic methanol production, Fischer-Tropsch diesel etc. The total energy efficiency of cryogenic processing is not very high, if the gas is used to make fuel, meaning that it is not very energy intensive.

See also

*Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC)
*Town gas
*Underground coal gasification
*Wood gas
*Boudouard reaction
*Partial oxidation
*Producer gas
*Water gas


External links

* [ Fischer Tropsch archive]

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