Observing the world of renewable energy and sustainable living

Underground Coal Gasification

When we started this blog in 2012, we were convinced that the very near future would be as predicted by ASPO-2000, Colin Campbell and Richard Heinberg, namely that the world was already at or even passed peak oil and a rapid decrease in available oil would shake the foundations of industrial society.

Meanwhile we’re living in 2017 and nothing of the sort has materialized. Oil price is currently at $54 and the concept of peak oil has gone out of fashion. The direct reason for this (for laymen) unexpected development is the rise of the fracking industry. There is however reason to assume that there is far more fossil fuel in the earth’s crust than previously anticipated:

[deepresource] – Fracking is for Amateurs (Apr 2015)

When US president elect Trump claims that there is for centuries worth of coal reserves, he is probably not exaggerating. The North Sea between Britain and Holland is probably one of the, if not the most explored areas in the world. While hunting for oil, explorers studying the core samples resulting from drilling activities, they noticed the presence of vast quantities of coal. Think trillions of tons of coal, a multiple of what humanity has burned so far in its entire history. Obviously it is not possible to mine these reserves in the conventional way, but meanwhile technology has advanced to the tune that it is no longer necessary to operate in this way.

In short: it is possible to drill holes and burn the coal at the location where it resides, by injecting oxygen and water and retrieving CH4, H2, CO and CO2.

[] – Underground coal gasification

The conclusion is that there is more than enough fossil fuel around to build the renewable energy base.

There is some Soviet experience with UCG, beginning in the thirties.

Yerostigaz, located in Angren, Uzbekistan, is the only commercial UCG operation in the world. Operational since 1961, Yerostigaz produces UCG synthesis gas to be used for power generation… 1 million m3/day and will continue to do so for the next 50 years.

[] – Technological Innovations on Underground Coal Gasification and CO2 SEQUESTRATION 
The advantages of this technique are related to its high efficiency, because it makes possible to triple or quadrupling the exploitable coal reserves and so offsetting the decline in reserves of other mineral fuels such as oil and gas. This is particularly suitable for low quality coals, such as lignite and bituminous coal, which produce less heat in combustion due to its high ash content and are they more polluting in conventional plants.

[] – The Push to Coal Gasification in Alberta
This paper will look specifically at coal gasification as this has the largest impact on Canada and Alberta, specifically in developing a higher value and more environmentally acceptable usage of coal when compared to straight combustion. Modern coal gasification also introduces a cost-effective substitute to natural gas in the form of syngas and hydrogen that can replace natural gas usage for larger natural gas users (such as the oil sands) allowing the natural gas to be freed up for other commercial markets. Finally, the hydro-gasification process produces a relatively pure and easily captured CO2 stream that normal coal combustion does not allow (or is highly uneconomical). In Alberta this carbon dioxide stream is an additional product line for the coal gasifier, who can sell the product to the oil industry for enhanced oil recovery.

[] – Underground Coal Gasification: An Overview of an Emerging Coal Conversion Technology

[] – carousel with pictures from the thirties


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