Home > Adani’s dishonest attempt to cool coal-to-plastics controversy debunked

Adani’s dishonest attempt to cool coal-to-plastics controversy debunked

26 July 2021

26 July 2021

Recently, the news of Adani’s next toxic venture – a coal-to-PVC plant – broke in the media.  

According to Adani’s own submission to the Indian Government, the plant will use 3.1 million tonnes of coal per year to make PVC plastic with the coal imported from “Australia, Russia and other countries” [1]. It is suspected that this is a way to give financial viability to Adani’s coal investments such as the Carmichael Project, which analysts say is at great risk of becoming a stranded asset.

In response to this Adani released an unsigned, undated and non-referenced statement to the media with some highly suspect claims:

“At the outset, the coal from the Carmichael Project in Australia is not suitable for the PVC plant… Secondly, it is widely proven that using coal as a chemical feedstock to produce PVC is less polluting as compared to conventional methods such as petrochemical refinery and ethylene cracker…While conventional methods source the carbon atom from oil, sourcing it from coal does not produce carbon-di-oxide.” [2]

Market Forces asked Tim Forcey, an energy advisor with experience in the petrochemical industry what he thought of Adani’s statement. This is what he had to say on the matter:

“No coal is technically unsuitable, any coal can be made to work.  If there is some special contaminant such as too much ash, sulfur, mercury, etc. in one particular coal, you spend money on the equipment to deal with that contaminant.”  

“Secondly, the claim that coal as a chemical feedstock is less polluting than oil is not ‘widely proven.’  Without references to the appropriate literature, this is just an unsupported claim. Most factories around the world making PVC do not use coal, but gas or oil components as the feedstock. Using coal to make plastics is a rather old-fashioned and potentially far more polluting way to go about it. That’s why coal is not widely used for plastics in our modern world, outside of some countries that might have more relaxed environmental regulations.”

(one source we found puts the figure of pollution from coal-to-plastics as more than triple that of conventional oil-to-plastics) 

“Finally, the idea that coal-to-PVC produces zero carbon dioxide is incorrect. Whether you get the carbon for plastics from any fossil fuel (coal, oil, or gas), carbon dioxide and potentially other greenhouse gases will be an inevitable byproduct,” Mr Forcey concluded.

We now wait for Adani Group to correct the record. However, as this is a company that says it cares about the clean energy transition while investing billions in new thermal coal mines and coal-burning power stations, we won’t hold our breath. 

[1] ​​http://environmentclearance.nic.in/DownloadPfdFile.aspx?FileName=7K8M82D7G656LyFtW41VFQ+Kr3ZbzZNEcBkSoY228eNlfzPFwJw1UYtC1BiIvXGtXIc/atpdcvoDuEzH5UW4j5XKZrrcLECGLK17zIMINuqT/GTR4f/DXsQPQEkluekt&FilePath=93ZZBm8LWEXfg+HAlQix2fE2t8z/pgnoBhDlYdZCxzXmG8GlihX6H9UP1HygCn3pCkAF2zPFXFQNqA4krKa1Aw== 

[2] https://www.adani.com/Newsroom/Media-Release/media-clarification-on-adani-group-upcoming-pvc-project