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Introduction

Underground coal gasification (UCG) is an industrial process, which enables the coal to be converted into product gas. UCG is an in-situ gasification process carried out in nonmined coal seams using injection of air and steam, and bringing the product gas to surface through production wells drilled from the surface. The product gas could to be used as a chemical feedstock or as fuel for power generation. The technique can be applied to resources that are otherwise not economical to extract and also offers an alternative to conventional coal mining methods for some resources.

Process
The basic underground coal gasification process consists of one production well drilled into the unmined coal-seam for injection of the oxygen through air and steam, and another production well to bring the product gas to surface. The basic reaction takes place as follows: C + H2O = CO + H2 However to carry out this reaction Carbon/Coal has to be red hot. To make carbon red hot some portion of insitu coal seam is burnt by passing oxygen/air The coal seam is ignited via the first well and burns at temperatures as high as 1,500 K (1,230 C), generating carbon dioxide (CO2), hydrogen (H2), carbon monoxide (CO) and small quantities of methane (CH4) and hydrogen sulphide(H2S) at high pressure. As the coal face burns and the immediate area is depleted, the oxidants injected are controlled by the operator, ultimately with the objective of guiding the burn along the seam. As coal varies considerably in its resistance to flow, depending on its age, composition and geological history, the natural permeability of the coal to transport the gas is generally not satisfactory. For high pressure break-up of the coal, a hydrofraccing, an electric-linkage, and a reverse combustion may be used with varying degrees.[8] There are two different commercially available underground coal gasification methods. One of the methods uses vertical wells and a method of reverse combustion to open up the internal pathways in the coal. The process was used in the Soviet Union and later it was tested in Chinchilla by using air and water as the injected gases.[8] Another method that was largely developed in the USA creates dedicated inseam boreholes, using drilling and completion technology adapted from oil and gas production. It has a moveable injection point known as CRIP (controlled retraction injection point) and generally uses oxygen or enriched air for gasification.

Economics
Underground coal gasification allow access to more coal resources than economically recoverable by traditional technologies. . By some estimates it will increase economically recoverable reserves by 600 billion tonnes. UCG product gas is optimally used to fire combined cycle gas turbine (CCGT) power plants, with some studies suggesting power island efficiencies of up to 55%, with a combined UCG / CCGT process efficiency rate of UCG product gas is optimally used to fire combined UCG product gas can also be used for:

Synthesis of liquid fuels Manufacture of chemicals such as ammonia and fertilizers Enhanced oil recovery (EOR).

In the roles listed above, UCG product gas replaces the use of natural gas and can provide substantial cost savings. Additional cost savings can be made over traditional coal mining and required coal transport, whereby the UCG process: produces syngas which can piped directly to the end-user, reducing need for rail / road infrastructure; and; lowers the cost of environmental cleanup due to solid waste being confined underground. The gasification of coal underground generates a fuel with a low emissions profile and the potential for complete carbon capture and storage (CCS) at low energy. In the roles listed above, UCG product gas replaces the use of natural gas and can provide substantial cost savings. Additional cost savings can be made over traditional coal mining and required coal transport, whereby the UCG process: produces syngas which can piped directly to the end-user, reducing need for rail / road infrastructure; and; lowers the cost of environmental cleanup due to solid waste being confined underground. The gasification of coal underground generates a fuel with a low emissions profile and the potential for complete carbon capture and storage (CCS) at low energy

Environmental impacts
UCG offers benefits to the environment over traditional coal mining and coal gasification methods. Most notably UCG eliminates the need for mining. This results in a number of immediate benefits including the elimination of solid waste discharge and reduction in sulphur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxide (NOx). The reduction of solid waste is a major advantage of UCG over traditional coal mining, where large quantities of coal ash, oxides, waste rock and radioactive waste are common discharges. In the case of UCG, this waste is either avoided or contained underground. When coal is combusted underground, NOx and SO2 atmospheric GHG emissions are lowered, therefore creating the added advantage in stemming acid rain occurrence. Also, reducing NOx emissions has key benefits in mitigating climate change, where NOx has a global warming potential of 296 times that of carbon dioxide (CO2). Combining UCG

with CCS technology allows compressing and reinjecting some of the CO2 on-site and into the highly permeable depleted gasifer created during the burning process, i.e. where the coal used to be.[2] Also, contaminants such as ammonia and hydrogen sulfide can be removed from UCG product gas. Social impacts Due to the absence of mining in UCG, a number of social benefits are evident. Firstly, the risk of injury or death to humans is significantly reduced given that workers no longer need to enter a mine. Secondly, as the impact on the environment is greatly reduced, local communities do not face the detrimental impacts (e.g. air pollution and large scale land degradation) that traditional mining brings. Lastly, local communities may benefit from the creation of associated infrastructure (e.g. roads), subsidised energy, and employee spending in the local economy.