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Permitting gets underway for underground coal gasification project


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.

Linc Energy first proposed the underground coal gasification project near Wright, in Campbell County, in 2009.

Project manager Brian Deurloo says the company has spent the intervening time introducing regulators and residents to the technology. Underground coal gasification is not widely-used, and Deurloo says Linc has had to work hard to show regulators that it’s safe.

“On our site, so far, we have approximately 44 groundwater monitoring wells, on the site, that we’ve pulled thousands of groundwater samples out [of] to understand the baseline water quality at our site."

Water contamination and surface subsidence have traditionally been the biggest problems associated with underground coal gasification.

There are currently only a handful of similar projects in the world -- and only one that operates commercially. Linc Energy owns that facility, and Deurloo says the company is well-positioned to make the technology a reality in Wyoming -- although he cautions that it depends on several factors:

“One, the DEQ issuance of the research and develoment license," Deurloo says. "Two, economic factors. Three, Gasifer Six alignment with Linc Energy’s global project priorities.”

Although Linc is interested in commercial applications down the line, the current proposal is only for a demonstration site that would operate for 90 to 120 days.

The public can comment on the project through October 23.

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