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Underground Coal-Gasification, Coal-to-Liquids Fuel Project in Australia

Syntroleum Corporation and Australian-based Linc Energy are planning to develop a coal-to-liquids (CTL) project in Australia that integrates Syntroleum’s air-based Fischer-Tropsch technology (earlier post) with Linc Energy’s underground coal gasification (UCG) technology.

This will be the first such project to combine the two technologies for the production of synthetic diesel from coal.

The CTL work will be part of Linc Energy’s ongoing Chinchilla Project (350 km west of Brisbane) which also includes early development of an integrated power plant.

Under the terms of the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA), Linc Energy is licensing Syntroleum’s CTL technology, with options for Syntroleum’s equity participation in these projects. Under the MOA, Linc Energy and Syntroleum will jointly fund a series of technology demonstration programs in advance of developing engineering designs for the CTL projects.

Linc’s underground gasification process has the potential to significantly reduce the capital cost of the CTL plants. They have produced commercial volumes of nitrogen-diluted syngas which we believe have the characteristics uniquely suitable for Syntroleum’s air-based FT process.

—Ken Roberts, SVP of business development, Syntroleum

Simplified UCG Process

Underground Coal Gasification (UCG) is a process through which coal is converted in-situ to a syngas that can be used as a fuel for power generation or as a chemical feedstock—e.g., to feed into a Fischer-Tropsch process for the generation of synthetic diesel.

UCG has been used in the Former Soviet Union for some 40 years.

In general terms, UCG uses adjacent boreholes drilled into a coal seam (typically > 100m depth). The injection wells are used to feed a pressurized oxidant such as air or oxygen/steam into the coal seam and to trigger the and subsequent down-hole ignition. The production wells recover the product gases.

The UCG syngas, which undergoes sulfur removal and additional conditioning at the surface, is similar to syngas obtained from conventional surface coal gasification systems, but production is achieved at a much lower cost.

According to Ergo Exergy, the providers of the UCG technology used by Linc, typical gas recovered using air injection may have calorific values in the range 3.5 to 5.0 MJ/m3, depending on specific site conditions, with approximately twice these values being achieved with oxygen injection.

UCG differs from conventional above-ground gasification in a number of ways:

  • Coal is not mined and chemical processes are arranged to occur in the virgin coal seam in situ.

  • The process wells (the collective terms for the injection and production wells in a UCG project) must be connected within the coal seam by the links of low hydraulic resistance to allow production of commercial quantities of gas.

  • Process water for gasification usually comes from the coal itself and surrounding rocks, and its influx must be carefully regulated.

  • No ash or slag removal and handling are necessary since they predominantly stay behind in the underground cavities.

  • The process must be confined within a hydraulic system created in the coal seam so that no leakage of the product is possible and no contamination of the underground environment can occur. Such a hydraulic system is called an underground gasifier, and its design is the most crucial part of a UCG operation.

A Life Cycle Analysis of UCG electricity production by BHP Billiton Newcastle Technology Center in Australia concluded that:

  • UCG-CCGT (Underground Coal Gasification-Combined Cycle Gas Turbine) has the potential to be one of the lowest greenhouse gas (GGE) coal-based technologies, and compares with the emerging IGCC (Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle) and more radical ultra-supercritical developments—it would generate around 25% less GGE than the most efficient of Australian coal-fired power stations.

  • UCG-CCGT, however, emits more GGE than does a natural-gas-fired CCGT process due primarily to the higher carbon to hydrogen ratio of the gasified coal product.

  • NOx values are equivalent to other combined cycle type power stations.

  • UCG-CCGT requires smaller amounts of water compared to other combined cycle technologies, as gasification water requirement is provided by controlling ingress of water from aquifers surrounding the wells and gasification voids. Some of this water is extracted as condensate and reused for cooling purposes.

Syntroleum’s strategic focus for its gas-to-liquids process is smaller fields of stranded natural gasfields of less than 5 Tcf in size, that do not have large—and highly expensive—GTL or LNG plants associated with them, or pipelines. Syntroleum’s compact technology is more mobile, and in theory can be more economically deployed to these distributed—and stranded—resources.

The UCG technology is designed for similarly “stranded”—remote and/or difficult to mine—coalfields. The two technologies complement each other in their capabilities of enabling producers to extract product from such resources.

The first commercial phase of the Chinchilla Project, which Linc Energy plans for next year, involves installation of a 30-40 MW power plant which will provide electricity to local markets. The second commercial phase of the Chinchilla Project, which plans for a 17,000-barrel-per-day Syntroleum CTL plant and power plant expansion, will be developed over the next several years.




Syngas seems to be quite a versatile commodity the can be generated from just about any thing that can be burned. I envision a continentwide pipeline network dedicated to moving syngas from coal mines, tar sand mines, biomass sources, etc to the urban areas for conversion to what ever fuel is in demand locally.
An earlier posting told about a bioreactor system that converted syngas into ethanol claiming 200 gallons per ton of coal. With 1.6 trillion tons of previously unusable coal available via insuti gasification give a potential yeild of 320,000,000,000,000 gallons of ethanol.


Syngas has a rather low heating value compared to methane, but the pumping effort is no less; it is accordingly more expensive (lossy) to pipe than natural gas.

(psst!  editor!  the phrase "coal seam and to trigger the and subsequent down-hole ignition" is gibberish.)


I may have been mistaken to believe that pumping a gas through a pipe costs less than hauling coal by train. Compared to gasoline coal has a low heating value but millions of tons of it passes through my town by rail every year on its way to the powerplant. We have problems with a persistent sulphuric acid haze around the southern end of Lake Michigan as well as mercury emissions from that big coal burner upwind from Grand Rapids. All that sulphur and mercury is imported from mines hundreds of miles south of here. Gasification at or near the mines would remove these toxins from the air that makes me wheeze too much to work for a living anymore. It might even save thousands of barrels of diesel fuel each year.

MIchael Blinderman

It is good that you gave links to my papers, it is not good that you have not mentioned that they are mine. The statement by Ken Roberts contains words "Linc’s underground gasification process" - there is no such process. Linc is using our proprietary Exergy UCG (tm) process under arrangement that does not give Linc any rights of ownership in the technology.


My apologies on that, although it does state in the text above:

According to Ergo Exergy, the providers of the UCG technology used by Linc...


I work for BHEL, the largest Indian manufacturer of power plant equipment and turn-key power plant engineers. We have on going programme on coal based IGCC. The gasification process was home grown for Indian high ash coals.
We desire to take up undeground coal gasification with other partners. We like to explore the possibility of technical consultancy tie up in UGC with leading international team.
Your interest may please be communicated to the e-mail id given .


Gibson Hutapea

Dear Sir,

I would like to know more on UCG-IGCC power plant, since our company is very interested on this technology

Best Regards
Gibson Hutapea

Bharat Bafna

We are an Indian Mid Size Corporate and want to tie up technology for UGCG or even open for JV, suitable companies who have proven track record may contact on the given Email ID


dear sir
i want to know about this full technology.sir if possible plz send me on my e-mail id

sanjay kumar

dear sir,
we are very much interested to know of this UCG CONCEPT and looking forward for any plant manufacturer from any part of the globe preferably from china as this is our nearby country and we have lot of collaborations with the chinese companies.once we get the mnufacturing company we intend to make the collaboration with the good reputed company.
with warm regards and happy new year 2007

norma holmes

Has this project been presented in testimony to Senate Cme. on Natural Resources in context of gasificaiton hearings -- anywhere to U.S. Congress?

It's of immediate concern. Federal Rail Administration is about to decide a $2.58 Federal loan application to build a rail system either above Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN or 450 feet from it on the ground. Either way the nitrous oxide and other contaminants pose significant threat to operation of the clinic, safety of 50,000 employees and nearly 2 million patients seen there every year.

Railroad couldn't get private funding -- so its asking Federal Government!!!?!

Xiangyong Zhou

Dear sir,

Could you please tell me some companies who can provide the integrated solution concerning the underground combustion field measurement for the UCG technology? Thanks!

Best regards!
Xiangyong Zhou


Dear Sir,

It is very exciting and persuasive to use this underground coal gasification technology and personally speaking it will my pleasure to make my employers believe in this methode of gas production.

But the problem is I need concrete data on this methot: detailed ans stepwise illustrations about the technology used and numerical values about the results obtained.

After I got the support of our responsible managers(with the help of your information mentioned above), then let me know who can work with us as consultant to our company. Sincerely yours,



In the geological diagram the unmineable coal seam looks like it can never find its way into the atmosphere. Never underestimate human ingenuity for making a quick buck.

Some kind of flow meter will be required at the outlet vent in order to work out the carbon tax. By the way the Chinchilla area is in drought some say due to global warming.

Norm Ostroff

What provision is there to prevent an uncontrolled underground coal-seam fire from ocurring?

My experience is that such fires are extremely difficult to extinguish.

I'll be very interested in your comments



Dear Sir
I would like to know brief details for processing outlet Gas & condensate from under ground coal gasification so as to use in commercial plant.kindly furnish the same .If you can provide Basic engineering for the same.
Details of similar servives provided by you.


I Understand from this report that the intention is to attempt to sequest some CO2 via a solidified lignin process as yet undescribed. I dont know that that process could be particularly relevent to or the best utilization of the product stream. I Recall a conversation with a fellow decades ago re the use of a paper like product tha was applied as a road sufacing anothe ruse may lie in the area of high grade paper, or even the mainstrem paper making industry. That would make consevationists and environmentalistssomeone happy. Offsetting tree pulping. One would have to think that carbon storage in wood already produces a quality storge mechanism, depending on species and end use. Useful Life Expectancy 'ULE'. Not much storage if the product life is less than hundreds of years. Logically the longer life the better the outcome. Ideally , and the way nature has (one should assume for good reason) been at this Sequestration model is to store carbon in the form of sinks like coal or oil. We too easily dismiss nature as a Dumb mechanism and that certainly goes against our understanding of climate science and modification in The natural environment. Lets face it planetary life forms have always altered thecomposition of earths atmosphere and it is
through these processes have evolved.
You cant blame them for trying, But I thought it was already established hat a near 0 carbon future is the only viable option. It's a shame that buisness think a little spin will keep us in the dark.
In fact the balance of comments here should serve as a warning to unethical companies that they bare simply raising our awareness while sinking heir own ship.
The military AND OTHER Backroom dealers might get away wih this attitude for a while yet. But I stress only a little while.

cholagangadev nayak

dear sir,
i would like to know the linkage procedure and the type if linkage used for UCG as i am doing my project work in this subject,this would be helpful for me


Dear sir,
Our company has begun the UCG project in Kazakhstan. There are 89M tone of brown coal at our deposit. We prepare the detailed technical documentations at present moment and we suggest that Coal-Syngas-Electricity scheme is preferable in our region 'cause there is a huge lack of the electric power in Kazakhstan so we hope the future demand will be provided.
Feel free to comment or send your questions ([email protected]).

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