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PostPosted: Mar 17, 2015 11:38 pm 
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Well I stumbled across an old article that seemed to indicate that there is a titanic coal resource under the North Sea.

3-23 trillion tonnes of material.

It appears looking later on that companies are attempting to develop said resources, using underground (and water!) coal gassification.
This looks like another potential game-changer in fossil fuel resources, on par with shale gas and LTO.

Anyone got any opinions on this?
As its gassification it would appear not to have any of the ash disposal problems of conventional coal - and with the developments in compact pressure swing absorbers and VSC HVDC installations it would be entirely possible to have a self contained production platform that did everything on site and exported power to the grid using gas turbine sets.

You could also go the other way and provide the platform with shore power from whatever source was convenient and use the syngas produced underground to manufacture methanol or DME for transport to shore.
There are prototype skid mounted methanol plants suitale for the job today.


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PostPosted: Mar 18, 2015 12:17 am 
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That is very interesting---thanks for pointing that out!


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PostPosted: Mar 18, 2015 3:11 am 
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It is a suggestion for in situ gasification of coal under the sea bed.
There is an MSR proposal for softening of tight oil using nuclear steam
http://terrestrialenergy.com/imsr-technology/
The nuclear steam could also be used for underground gasification of coal in deep or difficult seams and should be so used wherever economical. High ash coals are also best gasified underground. The trick is to cut costs. Replace FLiBe with cheaper salts and substitute water in tubes for graphite as moderator. Development of a breeder can be financed with resultant profits.


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PostPosted: Mar 18, 2015 11:24 am 
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I don't see the attraction in the current era of cheap fossil fuels. Why gassify coal, especially underwater coal, when natural gas is stable at $2 - $3 / GJ and oil is $45/bbl and dropping?


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PostPosted: Mar 18, 2015 12:04 pm 
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Because this oil and gas is not within reach of Britain.

Bowing before Putin tends to get old real quick.


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PostPosted: Mar 19, 2015 12:36 am 
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Majority of the world lives in East, South and SE Asia. They have abundant coal but less uranium or gas. Coal gasification could give them fuel without the dust. North sea just triggered the idea.


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PostPosted: Mar 19, 2015 2:32 am 
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The guardian is running a fossil fuel divestment campaign at the moment - trying to persuade people to leave it in the ground.

It's not got much chance of success without the likes of Gazprom on board, but the general sentiment does make future fossil fuel extraction in the UK (and Europe) harder. The common argument is that "we can't extract shale gas and meet CO2 emissions targets"

It would make coal seam gas difficult to get going.

There is though enough pragmatism in the UK to realise that "No to fossil fuels" = "yes to nuclear".


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PostPosted: Mar 19, 2015 7:05 am 
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Apparently total UK primary fuel use was ~250 million tonnes of oil equivalent last year.

Apparently a tonne of coal is roughly ~0.7t of oil, if we assume 80% gassification efficiency (the rest is dispersed as heat in the well) then that means that a tonne of coal in the seam is ~0.56toe.

That means that it would take roughly 446 million tonnes of in place coal to provide the UK's entire energy resource.

THis puts the 3-23 trillion tonne resource into perspective. Something between six and fifty-one millenia of fuel
Peak conventional coal production in the UK was roughly ~290 million tonnes in 1913.


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PostPosted: Mar 19, 2015 5:24 pm 
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E Ireland wrote:
THis puts the 3-23 trillion tonne resource into perspective. Something between six and fifty-one millenia of fuel


I'll remember that the next time someone claims we will run out of fossil fuels.

I'm sure all of us can remember a time when we were told that we'd run out of oil and/or coal, in a matter of years. Problem is that we keep finding more. It then became an argument that we'd run out in decades. Then it was centuries, and at this point people should just plain stop worrying about running out ever. With development of wind, solar, fission, and fusion, going even at a snails pace we have the time to make them work before we run out. Now that we've got to the level of finding thousands of years of fossil fuels then the argument of running out ever is difficult to even imagine. People can't imagine thousands of years.

What then is the argument to not mine this coal? Global warming is what would likely come to most people. Well, I'm not a believer in that either. Then why would I be such an advocate for energy from thorium? Because I do not believe we can colonize the stars on coal power. We shouldn't be mining the ocean floor for coal, we should be mining the surface of Mars for thorium.

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Disclaimer: I am an engineer but not a nuclear engineer, mechanical engineer, chemical engineer, or industrial engineer. My education included electrical, computer, and software engineering.


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PostPosted: Mar 20, 2015 12:08 am 
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There has been similar work to in-situ hydrogenate coals into very heavy oil which can be pumped out.

Liquefaction can be achieved with the formula CnHn.
And coal is roughly CH0.8 as it is.
Not much hydrogen is required to mobilise it, roughly ~1.5% weight of the coal.
At which point it can be fed into delayed cokers or similar plants to produce more useful products - and coke that can be used for fuel or metallurgy.


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PostPosted: Mar 20, 2015 6:50 pm 
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The technologies of gasification of coal and synthesis of the gas to liquid fuels are known. However it may not be useful to combine them into underground liquefaction. It would be useful to remove some of the poisons before conversion to liquids and burning.
Carbon dioxide may be the least worrisome of the problems of coal. It is one greenhouse gas that could be consumed by the greenhouse varieties of crops. Sulfur and the particulate matter may be the real problems.
Use of nuclear steam could avoid the underground burning and loss of fuel value. Terrestrial energy are already advocating the use of nuclear steam for softening of tight oil.


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PostPosted: Mar 21, 2015 6:11 am 
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What about the world coal usage for steel production only ? And which grade of coal is used for that ?


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PostPosted: Mar 21, 2015 7:33 am 
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Traditionally you want hard coking-coal for the production of steel using a blast furnace.
The coke produced by the coal has to be strong enough that it won't crush under the weight of the charge, ditto the iron ore. It has to remain sufficiently porous to alloy the reducing gas to flow through and around it.

With plants using direct reduced iron (which is increasingly common due to the lower capital costs of the plant) you can use natural gas or whatever grade of coal you have available since its purpose is merely to make syngas.


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PostPosted: Mar 21, 2015 9:13 am 
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This amount is rather shocking. 3000 billion tonnes, MINIMUM. Crazy!

This stuff is everywhere.

Any ideas on cost, though? Offshore is typically a synonym for expensive. I guess making liquid fuels such as ethanol in situ makes sense since the value is so much higher than coal. But it means a pretty substantial plant. Shell's gas-to-liquids plant in Qatar costs an arm and a leg, and that's onshore, in a useless desert with cheap labor and no one nearby to produce delays and cost overruns of the legal types.


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PostPosted: Mar 21, 2015 10:30 am 
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Well you can make methanol using a far more comapct piece of kit than the GTL plant.

The produced gas from the well will be a mixture of carbon monoxide, hydrogen, methane and light hydrocarbons.
The carbon monoxide/hydrogen can be seperated using membrane or zeolite seperators relatively compactly, then you just have to make methanol.
The Pearl GTL plant is far more sophisciated with a full blown Fisher-Tropsch works and an integrated cracking plant.

If you go the syngas-methanol-product route then the methanol can be handled and processed ashore.
You also don't need a catalytic oxidation reactor like you have in the Pearl plant as there will be plenty of syngas available.


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