|Process flow sketch for UCTL demonstration unit. Click to enlarge.|
Australia-based Regal Resources has secured commitments to raise A$5.2 million (US$3.7 million) via a placement of 148.2 million new shares at 3.5 cents to fund the pilot test of a novel Underground Coal to Liquids (UCTL) process near Melbourne. Regal will seek to acquire Magma Limited, the holder of UCTL patents via the issue of 100 million shares and 50 million unlisted 6 cent options.
UCTL is an in situ process that converts brown coal/lignite to liquid hydrocarbon and gas products within the coal seam. Each component of the process has been demonstrated in the laboratory, but there has yet to be a field test.
The preferred coal type is lignite; the water and impurities aid the UCTL process. The preferred seam depth is more than 50 meters, and the seam thickness more than 5 meters.
|The UCTL process. Click to enlarge.|
The liquefaction process is initiated by the direct delivery of water with simulated supercritical properties (WSSP) and entrained catalysts to the underground coal seam utilizing existing jet pump, nozzle, oil well and oil field technologies.
The in situ process intends to utilise the insulative properties of coal combined with the controlled delivery mechanism of the high kinetic energy of water and catalysts (supplemented by natural catalysts/impurities located in all coal seams) to achieve liquefaction at a targeted 350 °C, thereby maximizing liquids production when compared to other coal liquefaction processes.
Steam, methane and hydrocarbon liquids are proposed to be recovered via the annulus of the well with the hydrocarbon liquids being stripped at surface and the remaining products being recycled by the jet pumps in a continuous cycle. Hydrocarbon liquids will be shipped to a refinery for processing.
The UCTL process is expected to produce large quantities of steam from the approximate 60% moisture content of brown coal/lignite. The pilot test will measure the heat energy and steam to ascertain the viability of a commercial pathway for using the steam for power generation as an additional business.
Research indicates that the remaining downhole ash left after the liquefaction process could be in a form of zeolite which could absorb a significant portion of the carbon dioxide created during the process.
The pilot test will seek to confirm the UCTL recovery ratio. There are an estimated 3,500 billion tonnes of brown coal/lignite worldwide.
If successful, the UCTL process would be significantly less capital-intensive than conventional coal liquefaction. The UCTL process can utilize conventional oil/gas wells and conventional oilfield surface equipment.
Underground Coal to Liquids Business Plan Overview (Magma, December 2008)