Syngas can be produced from many sources, including natural gas, coal, biomass, or virtually any hydrocarbon feedstock, by reaction with steam (steam reforming), carbon dioxide (dry reforming) or oxygen (partial oxidation). Syngas is a crucial intermediate resource for production of hydrogen, ammonia, methanol, and synthetic hydrocarbon fuels. Syngas is also used as an intermediate in producing synthetic petroleum for use as a fuel or lubricant via the Fischer–Tropsch process and previously the Mobil methanol to gasoline process.
The chemical composition of syngas varies based on the raw materials and the processes. Syngas produced by coal gasification generally is a mixture of 30 to 60% carbon monoxide, 25 to 30% hydrogen, 5 to 15% carbon dioxide, and 0 to 5% methane. It also contains lesser amount of other gases.
The first reaction, between incandescent coke and steam, is strongly endothermic, producing carbon monoxide (CO), and hydrogen H
2 (water gas in older terminology). When the coke bed has cooled to a temperature at which the endothermic reaction can no longer proceed, the steam is then replaced by a blast of air.