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UK company to sign deal for underground coal gasification plant in China

Oilfield Technology,

Seamwell International, a British company specialising in new clean coal technology, will sign a US$ 1.5 billion deal with China under the gaze of Prime Minister David Cameron and Premier Wen Jiabao at the UK-China Summit.

In an exciting development for new green technologies, UK-based Seamwell are to collaborate with China Energy Conservation and Environmental Protection Group (CECEP) to commercially develop an electric power plant using synthesis gas extracted from gasifying coal deposits via UCG, which may otherwise remain unexploited due to economic, strategic or technical reasons. It is estimated that the region within Inner Mongolia where the plant is to be located has 280 billion t of such “stranded” coal resources.

The US$ 1.5 billion clean coal project is the first of its kind to use the embryonic technology on a commercial basis, massively reducing the environmental impact of a traditional coal-fired power plant. Once up and running, the first 1000 MW power plant will last for around 25 years and produce 5 billion KWh, consuming 6 million tpa of coal.

The technology has been created in collaboration with a number of specialist consultants including Imperial College London and CDE Process (pty) Limited and Aqua Alpha drilling limited of South Africa. It represents a 20% saving on the CO2 emissions of a traditional coal-fired power plant and 50% if carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology is also utilised.

The process works by tapping coal reserves deep underground which would otherwise be deemed stranded because they are not commercially viable. A vertical ‘ignition’ well is drilled down into the coal seam, which is then joined by one or two other directional drill holes which sit along the bottom of the coal seam in parallel. The coal is then ignited and either air or oxygen and steam injected into the injection well to feed the gasification process. The resulting synthesis gas is then cleaned at the surface and used to generate electricity.

Matthew Idiens, president of Seamwell International, said: “We are thrilled to be taking this ground-breaking technology to China and to be one of the first in the world to build a commercial underground coal gasification power plant of this size.”

Sir Richard Needham, the chairman of Seamwell International said: “This technology has tremendous potential to help China and many other countries to meet their future energy needs at the same time as reducing the environmental impact of fossil fuel exploitation.”

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