underground coal gasification

A Legislative Committee had lots of questions during its meeting this week for Linc Energy. That company has plans for an underground coal gasification test project near the town of Wright. If it moves forward, it would be the first such project in the United States in decades. 

Many of the legislators’ questions echoed those that have been raised before, from the impacts of the process on water quality to the possibility of sinkholes.

Stephanie Joyce

The federal government has given its blessing for an underground coal gasification (UCG) test project in Wyoming. UCG involves gasifying --  basically, incompletely burning -- coal seams deep underground to produce syngas, which can be converted to diesel and other liquid fuels. Linc Energy’s project needed Environmental Protection Agency approval because it will pollute an aquifer (the company says it will restore the aquifer to its original quality after the test burn).

Stephanie Joyce

Millions of railcars leave the Powder River Basin every year, carrying hundreds of millions of tons of coal. Those are big numbers, but the coal we mine is just a small fraction of what’s underground. Most of the basin’s coal reserves are buried too deep for conventional mining.

An Australian company called Linc Energy wants to use a technology known as underground coal gasification to tap those deep coal reserves and turn them into fuel. But as Wyoming Public Radio’s Stephanie Joyce reports, that might come at the peril of another valuable resource: water.

The state has requested information from Australian regulators about alleged environmental crimes by Linc Energy. The company operates an underground coal gasification project in Australia and wants to the do the same here in Wyoming.

A company proposing to open an underground coal gasification demonstration site in Wright has been charged with environmental violations in Australia.  The charges could cost the company over two million dollars per violation.

Underground coal gasification involves igniting coal seams deep underground to produce syngas, which can then be processed into various liquid fuels or other chemicals.     

What exactly the environmental harm is has not yet been revealed.

It was standing room only at the Wright Public Library last night as residents packed into a hearing about a nearby project that would burn coal seams underground to produce synthesis gas or syngas.

Linc Energy’s proposed underground coal gasification project has been in the works for years, but from the public testimony, many Wright residents were hearing about it for the first time. And they had lots of questions about the process, which has never been developed commercially.

A project that proposes setting fire to deep coal seams in order to produce fuel is moving forward. At a hearing last week, the Environmental Quality Council rejected arguments that Linc Energy’s proposed underground coal gasification project would contaminate drinking water supplies in Campbell County. But as Wyoming Public Radio’s Stephanie Joyce reports, concerns linger about the safety of the technology.

A project that seeks to use Wyoming coal that’s buried too deep underground for conventional mining is one step closer to becoming a reality.

The Department of Environmental Quality has put Linc Energy’s proposed underground coal gasification project up for public review. The process involves drilling thousands of feet below the surface into deep coal seams, and then igniting them, and capturing the gases that are produced. Those can then be converted into synthetic natural gas, chemicals like ammonia or fertilizer, or liquid fuels.