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South Africa to Use Large-Scale Underground Coal Gasification

At the Fossil Fuel Foundation (FFF) workshop held in Johannesburg this week, industry leaders from around the world heard about the benefits of underground coal gasification technology (UCG).

John Kessels, the senior analyst for the International Energy Agency Clean Coal Centre, gave the keynote speech, and stated that UCG is now being recognised all around the world as a clean, viable, and economic method of accessing, and using coal reserves previously considered unrecoverable.

Kessels noted that UCG technology has advanced due to trials in the US, Australia, South Africa, Canada, and Europe, over the past few years.

In fact South Africa is ready to employ the technology on a wide scale this year. Muzi Mkhize, the chief director for the South African Department of Energy, said that they hope to have the necessary gas infrastructure in place, to take advantage of UCG, by the end of the year.

Related article: Coal Is the Fuel of the Past and the Future

Gas will contribute 15% of the country’s overall energy mix, including gas from UCG facilities. UCG has been given approval due to its ability to make use of very deep coal reserves, and the lack of mining, transportation, and ash disposal, that normally is part and parcel of extracting coal.

David Mosuwe of Linc Energy, one of the leading UCG companies in the world, explains that vertical production wells are drilled down into coal seams as deep as 2km. Injection wells are then drilled horizontally along the bottom of the seam, intersecting with the production well, and maximising the amount of coal that can be converted into gas. Oxygen is then pumped at a continuous rate into the well, forcing the gas up to the surface, where it can then be converted into liquid fuels, or burned to produce electricity.

UCG effectively converts coal fields into gas fields, and does away with much of the infrastructure associated with mining, meaning that it has a far lower impact on the environment.

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By. James Burgess of Oilprice.com



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