Underground coal gasification : overview of an economic and environmental evaluation




Kitaka, Richard Herbertson

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This paper examines an overview of the economic and environmental aspects of Underground Coal Gasification (UCG) as a viable option to the above ground Surface Coal Gasification (SCG). In addition, some highlights, hurdles and opportunities from early investment to successful commercial application of some worldwide UCG projects will be discussed. Global energy demands have prompted continual crude oil consumption at an astronomical pace. As such, the most advanced economies are looking for local and bountiful resources to challenge crude oil's dependence for which coal provides the best alternative so far. In the U.S, the Department of Energy (DOE), the National Energy Transportation Laboratory (NETL) along with the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) continue to support pilot programs that develop improved methods for clean coal technologies to produce coal derived fuels competitive with crude oil fuels at about $30 per barrel. Lignite, the softest of the four types of coal, is the best candidate for underground coal gasification due to its abundance, high volatility and water to carbon content in its rock formation. The biggest challenge of modern humans is to find a balance of energy consumption, availability of resources, production costs and environmental conservation. Additionally, UCG has environmental benefits that include mitigating CO₂ emissions through Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) and reduced overall surface pollutants, making it the preferred choice over SCG.



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