Coal Gasification, Cook Inlet
Cook Inlet Region, Inc. has been developing an energy project in south central Alaska utilizing an energy technology referred to as underground coal gasification, or UCG, to commercialize previously unmineable, deeply-buried coal seams under its lands in the Beluga area of Cook Inlet.
UCG is a process and related set of technologies that utilizes the earth as a reaction chamber to convert a deeply-buried coal seam and its attendant coal seam aquifer into a usable energy product by way of a set of controlled chemical reactions. In its simplest form UCG requires the drilling of an injection well and a production well from the surface to the coal seam, creating a physical connection between the two wells to facilitate their communication, igniting the coal seam and sustaining combustion through the injection of oxidants (compressed air, oxygen or steam) and, finally, the production and clean-up of synthesis gas—a combination of hydrogen, carbon monoxide and other gases—via the production well. The heat and pressure created by the combustion reaction gasify the coal and create syngas. Despite the simplicity and elegance of the UCG concept, the design and operation of a UCG development is a highly technical and complex process.
Alaska possesses massive reserves of stranded coal that cannot be developed due to environmental and economic hurdles. UCG represents a technology that can unlock these significant stranded reserves of energy in Alaska in an environmentally responsible and economically competitive manner.
AAPG Search and Discovery Article #90162©2013 Pacific Section AAPG, SPE and SEPM Joint Technical Conference, Monterey, California, April 19-25, 2013