Celanese Partners to Develop Ethanol in Indonesia

Coal-to-ethanol technology could result in four new plants to meet Indonesia’s growing fuel needs.

Specialty chemical company Celanese Corp. (IW 500/152) announced a joint venture Thursday with Indonesian state-owned energy company Pertamina to develop synthetic fuel ethanol from coal.

The companies will use Celanese’s TCX technology, which converts hydrocarbon feedstocks, such as coal and natural gas, into ethanol.

 Development of the fuel is part of Indonesia’s plan to reduce energy imports and improve air-quality standards, said Pertamina CEO Karen Agustiawan. Indonesia’s goal to produce a 10% blend of high-octane fuel ethanol by 2020 would potentially require up to four new TCX production plants, according to Celanese.  

Indonesia expects demand for transportation fuel in the country will reach 25 million tons this year and increase 6% annually through at least 2020.

The ethanol produced using Celanese’s TCX technology could reduce Pertamina’s gasoline import requirements by more than 30 million barrels annually, Celanese said.

TCX could help Indonesia improve its air quality by reducing particulate matter as well as nitrogen oxide and sulfur oxide emissions, said Steven Sterin, chief financial officer and president of Celanese’s Advanced Fuel Technologies business.

Pending final investment decisions, production is expected to begin in approximately 30 months.

Celanese claims its hydrocarbon-to-ethanol technology is less expensive than traditional ethanol sources, such as corn.

But in the United States, ethanol legislation enacted prior to the availability of TCX requires most of the ethanol produced to be derived from corn.

In January, six House members introduced a bill sponsored by Republican Pete Olson from Texas that would encourage more ethanol production from sources other than corn.

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