Coal gasification might postpone peak oil a century or so…

Now this is depressing. It forced me to completely restructure my thoughts and summary page on coal. Straight in from Monbiot…

While I’m prepared to believe that oil supplies might decline in the next few years, his coal prediction is hogwash. Energy companies in the UK, as the latest ENDS report shows, are now beginning to deploy a technology that will greatly increase available reserves. Government figures suggest that underground coal gasification – injecting oxygen into coal seams and extracting the hydrogen and methane they release – can boost the UK’s land-based coal reserves 70-fold; and it opens up even more under the seabed. There are vast untapped reserves of other fossil fuels – bitumen, oil shale, methane clathrates – that energy companies will turn to if the price is right.

via I share their despair, but I’m not quite ready to climb the Dark Mountain | George Monbiot | Comment is free | The Guardian.

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4 Responses to Coal gasification might postpone peak oil a century or so…

  1. pyrotex says:

    The key words are: “if the price is right.”
    We can turn CO2 and H2O into methane and/or alcohol using just sunlight. But the cost of developing this on a scale big enough to supply our ever increasing demand for electricity is totally beyond reason. Perhaps we could use it to power our personal vehicles, if folks don’t mind paying 2 or 3 or 5 times what they pay now — and if the increased price is enough to make many folks give up their vehicle for public transportation.
    Some of these technologies just don’t scale up very well. Ten million tons of chlathrates in one mother lode would be nice, if still tricky and expensive. But chlathrates don’t often show up in convenient huge pockets, but rather, scattered all over in small (inconvenient) pockets.
    Coal liquification in situ isn’t all that tricky in the lab. But in the field? With every coal seam of a different size and geometry?
    It’s not that we’re gonna get whacked by “peak oil” as such, people.
    The problem is, we’re gonna get whacked by “peak cheap-hydrocarbon-energy-in-vast-easy-to-produce-gluttonous-quantities.”

  2. eclipsenow says:

    Cheers Pyrotex. So to your reading of it, coal gasification is just too expensive?

    I wish I knew what was real energy reporting and what was just spin!

    Check this out, from the wiki…

    The successful demonstration in 1999-2003 near the town of Chinchilla, some 350 kilometres (220 mi) west of Brisbane, in Queensland, Australia has resulted in a surge of interest in the technology. The demonstration involved the gasification of 35,000 tonnes of coal, and resulted in successful environmental performance as per independent audit reports.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Underground_coal_gasification

    • pyrotex says:

      Okay. 35,000 tonnes of coal. That’s by no means a large seam of coal, as we burn millions of tonnes a year. One tonne of coal supplies as much energy as one half tonne of petroleum.
      Big question: What was the efficiency?
      Did this gasification produce 0.5 tonnes of “fluid” hydrocarbon from 1 tonne of coal? Which would be PERFECT efficiency!
      Or did it produce 0.1 tonnes per tonne of coal?
      Or 0.01 tonnes per tonne of coal?
      PLUS… what was the energy input necessary to achieve gasification of this coal seam?
      If they produced 0.1 tonnes of output per tonne of coal, and it “cost” 0.1 tonnes of energy in to generate the output, then you are left with a net “profit” of… ummm… carry the one… ummm… zero. You just break even.
      So the article is worthless unless you get the conversion efficiency and the energy cost per tonne of coal.

  3. eclipsenow says:

    All good points again Pyro, and I wish we had the answers. I guess all I can offer is that if it is economically viable, then it is probably energetically profitable. I know not all things are, such as corn ethanol which largely seems to get by on Federal subsidies in the USA. But sometimes the economics indicates the energy equation is not too out of whack.

    Hey, Pyro, while I’ve got you have you heard of the Dark Mountain Project? It seems to be a new coalition of important collapse thinkers in the UK, mainly written by Paul Kingsworth and Dougald Hine but influenced by John Michael Greer (Archdruid report) and all the other regular collapse writers.

    They’re even holding a festival. George Monbiot has critiqued the whole thing, but I was wondering if you had heard of it?

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