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Alberta exploring gasification of deep underground coal

The first demonstration of deep underground coal gasification in North America is under construction in Alberta.


The first demonstration of deep underground coal gasification in North America is under construction in Alberta.

Swan Hills Synfuels of Calgary has completed the drilling and at the beginning of April was doing mechanical tie-in work on the surface modules.

The $30 million demonstration project in north-central Alberta is intended to show that it’s possible to manufacture synthetic gas from Alberta’s vast coal resources. The coal seams, which are 1,000 metres below the earth’s surface, could be used for future carbon capture and storage.

The underground gasification process involves injecting oxygen and saline water into the deeply buried coal. The gas produced can be used as fuel for power generation, or it can be processed for home heating or for products like hydrogen, methanol and transportation fuels. The process does not use fresh water and is carried out at depths where conventional mining is not economic or even possible

The Alberta Energy Research Institute is helping to fund the  project. Engineering firms involved in the design of the demonstration project include DPH Focus Engineering (surface facilities), Frontier Engineering & Consultants (subsurface), Skystone Engineering (metallurgical), and Cobra Group (constructor).

Underground coal gasification has been used commercially outside North America for close to 40 years.