But following an independent review, which concluded the emissions from the process would be significantly higher than other sources of gas, the UK Government on Thursday ended any remaining hopes, saying it was “minded to not support the development of this technology in the UK”.
Editor: apparently the UK government is confident that their energy needs can be covered from other sources and shy away from potential negative environmental effects. But the coal will remain where it is and other UK governments could change their minds.
[gov.uk] – Underground Coal Gasification – Evidence Statement of Global Warming Potential
[sciencedirect.com] – The analysis of the underground coal gasification in experimental equipment
[telegraph.co.uk] – Government kills off plans to burn coal under the seabed
[fraw.org.uk] – The hell-fires of UCG threaten Tyneside and the North Sea
[scottishconservatives.com] – Now SNP bans underground coal gasification
[foei.org] – Fuelling the fire
[corporatewatch.org] – Underground Coal Gasification scrapped in the UK
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.
[wikipedia.org] – 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.
[scielo.org.co] – 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.
[ualberta.ca] – 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.
[cornerstonemag.net] – Underground Coal Gasification: An Overview of an Emerging Coal Conversion Technology
[lincenergy.com] – carousel with pictures from the thirties
Wow, that doesn’t happen too often: we’re being out-doomed by none other than Goldman-Sachs. The always sympathetic bankers guild has issued a statement saying that not everything is kosher in energy land and that the world is already past peak coal.
We’re shocked. According to our ‘moderate doomer’ wisdom, peak oil is about now, peak natural gas perhaps in 2025 and peak coal somewhere after 2030.
No such luck.
P.S. we are not 100% convinced this is true, not even close. Technology is a major wild card, making predictions unreliable.
[deepresource] – Fracking is for Amateurs
[source] Braunkohlekraftwerk Niederaußem des Energieversorgers RWE. dpa
Energy consultant Energy Brainpool has conducted a study, paid by Greenpeace, showing that it is possible to immediately switch off no less than 36 lignite fueled power stations (15 GW) with hardly any consequences at all, other than saving 70 million ton CO2/year. Cleaner electricity could be bought elsewhere in Europe and electricity prices would merely increase with 0.6 cent/kWh (24 euro/household/year). The study does recommend to keep a number of these power stations in a ‘strategic reserve’, so they can be switched on again in case of a supply bottleneck.
[spiegel.de] – 36 Kohlemeiler könnten auf einen Schlag vom Netz
[source] Braunkohlekraftwerk Niederaußem near Cologne
Rough estimates of the potential of fracking, as practiced in North-America, are that it can postpone the end of the oil age with perhaps a decade or so.
However, there never has been any doubt that the remaining quantity of fossil fuel, stored in the earth’s crust, is many times larger than the cumulative amount of fossil fuel consumed so far in the entire history. The problem has always been: can we access that fuel in an economic way and the concept of EROEI is the leading indicator to decide if a fuel can be exploited economically. The decisive factor is technology, a very dynamic factor. There are for instance enormous quantities of frozen methane lying around on the ocean floor and now it is beginning to dawn that unbelievable large quantities of coal are waiting to be exploited beneath the North-Sea floor, that could be harvested in gas form:
Scientists have discovered vast deposits of coal lying under the North Sea, which could provide enough energy to power Britain for centuries.
Experts believe there is between 3 and 23 trillion tonnes of coal buried in the seabed starting from the northeast coast and stretching far out under the sea.
Data from seismic tests and boreholes shows that the seabed holds up to 20 layers of coal – much of which could be reached with the technology already used to extract oil and gas.
In comparison: so far the world extracted ‘merely’ 0.135 trillion ton of oil, a small fraction of the coal reserves located beneath the North-Sea. In other words: peak conventional oil may have happened in 2005, but in hindsight it was a completely irrelevant event.
If it is wise to exploit these vast reserves is a different matter altogether. But one thing is certain: the original idea we had when we started this blog over three years ago, namely that fossil fuel could become scarce on relatively short notice, that idea needs to be abandoned. Limiting factors will more likely be: finance, geopolitics, war, environment, climate change; not lack of combustible material. It is likely that there is far more fossil fuel around than the atmosphere can ever handle.
Obviously we do not advocate the grand-scale exploitation of coal underneath the North-Sea, although it is nice to know that we in Europe are perhaps not as dependent on the Middle-East for the duration of the transition. What we do advocate is the exploitation of a limited amount to enable the renewable energy transition to occur, meaning a large wind-turbine next to every village and solar panels on every available roof, combined with large scale hydro-storage in mountain areas. The EU should stick to its original goal of 100% renewable energy by 2050. Again: there is no serious energy problem in the long term. There is an awareness problem.
[dailymail.co.uk] – Vast deposits totalling up to 23 trillion tonnes found under the North Sea
[wikipedia.org] – Coal gasification
[theecologist.org] – ‘Underground coal gasification’ hell-fires threaten Tyneside and the North Sea
[thegwpf.com] – Coal is the new black gold under the North Sea
[resilience.org] – 3000 Billion tons of coals off Norway’s coastline
[thejournal.co.uk] – Drilling date set for North Sea’s vast coal reserves
[walesonline.co.uk] – An estimated trillion tonnes of coal found off Wales’ coast
[heraldscotland.com] – North Sea is the place to be in crude price slump declares entrepreneur
[source] – North Sea is the place to be in crude price slump declares entrepreneur
German economics minister Sigmar Gabriel has announced that Germany won’t meet the climate goals set earlier. Reason is that it is not possible to shut off both nuclear AND coal based power stations. The original ambition of lowering CO2 with 40% compared to 1990 needs to be abolished.
The cost of wind power has dropped below the price of coal-fired energy in parts of India (like Karnataka, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh) for the first time as improved turbine technology and rising fossil-fuel prices boost its competitiveness, Greenko Group Plc said. The current cost to build wind farms in India is about $1.25 million a megawatt.
Today’s post goes into the global consumption of energy and provides a dataset in Excel for researchers on global primary energy consumption from 1830 to 2010. In other words, the energy contained in fossil fuels, uranium, and biomass in their raw form before processing into electricity, heat, or liquid fuel, and direct electricity production from hydro, solar, wind, and geothermal. Read more…