Clean(er) coal?


In Alaska and Wyoming, two energy companies just announced plans to burn coal underground to create natural gas, then use the waste carbon dioxide to enhance oilfield production. The process, called "underground coal gasification", has never been done in the U.S., but is used in Australia and other countries. The Anchorage Daily News reports:

As described by Cook Inlet Region Inc., the project would be a massive win-win -- its dormant coal fields would be tapped for energy without the environmental consequences of traditional coal mining, the region would get a new source of electricity, the pressure on local natural gas supplies would be eased and more oil might even be squeezed from Cook Inlet's aging oil fields.

CIRI's project would involve drilling wells into buried coal seams, then injecting compressed air into the wells, causing the coal to combust and create gas. CIRI would then convert the gas into electricity at its new 100-megawatt power plant and sell the power to buyers in the region, such as utilities.

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories is acting as technical adviser for the Alaska project, which could be producing synthetic gas by 2014.

Meanwhile, in Wyoming, Linc Energy (based in Australia) and GasTech (based in Casper) plan to have a joint demonstration UCG project underway within 2 1/2 years. The companies have leased state land in the Powder River Basin.

Green groups are warily optimistic -- the nonprofit Clean Air Task Force released a recent report recommending "rapid development and deployment of underground coal gasification to reduce carbon emissions and electricity prices."


Anonymous says:
Oct 20, 2009 06:12 PM
I have thought for years that burning coal for electricity was a mistake, in many ways. Underground gasification sounds right. I have included a link for biological gasification. This was just a first shot Google.
I could be wrong, but moving the energy to cities as gas in a pipe would be much more efficient that digging out the coal and shipping it by train. Why not leave the coal in the ground--and digest it?

There may be a step beyond this where the electricity can be made with burning something at high temperature.

We need a lot of engineers and chemists to be working on this problem right now.