Environmental aspects of underground coal gasification

Jerzy ŚWIĄDROWSKI*, Krzysztof STAŃCZYK – Central Mining Institute (GIG), Katowice, Poland
Please cite as: CHEMIK 2016, 70, 5, 239–246

The concept of underground coal gasification involves direct obtaining of energy stored in coal beds that are difficult to mine using known and conventional methods, in a manner justified by economic, environmental and social benefits. Economic effect is shown by an improvement of coal use energy efficiency and its competitiveness by e.g. production of liquid and gaseous fuels from process gas. The sustainable development principle regarding exhaustion of non-renewable energy resource reserves leads to the conclusion it is necessary to seek possibility of obtaining energy from these resources in the most economic and effective manner, i.e. from coal beds for which open pit or underground mining are impossible due to technical or economical reasons. Moreover, global trends aiming to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, particularly CO2, make it necessary to develop clean coal technologies including underground coal gasification [1]. In the social aspect, underground gasification eliminates hazards to health and life of people directly involved in the mining process.

This leads to the question: Why, despite unquestionable benefits, a technology – with foundations defined by such great scientists as William Siemens, Dmitri Mendeleev, William Ramsay more than 100 years ago – has not been implemented at large industrial scale? Putting aside unstable price ratios of fossil energy carriers (coal, oil, gas), this is due to the lack of possibility of clear determination – at investment preparation stage – of environmental risk related to construction, operation and decommissioning of the plant.

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