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Alaska Native Corporation Proposes Underground Coal Gasification Project with Carbon Capture for Power Generation

Underground coal gasification uses paired wells in a coal seam: one an oxidant injection well, the other the syngas producer well. Source: CIRI. Click to enlarge.

Cook Inlet Region Inc. (CIRI), an Alaska Native corporation, is proposing an underground coal gasification (UCG) project that would use the resulting syngas to fuel a new 100 MW combined cycle power plant. The syngas could also be upgraded to synthetic natural gas or synthetic liquid fuels.

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) is CIRI’s independent technology consultant. LLNL has been working with UCG technology development and field deployment for more than 30 years.

In 2007, LLNL and BP signed a technical agreement to work cooperatively on the development of underground coal gasification (UCG) technology for the in-situ conversion of coal deposits into fuels and other products. (Earlier post.)

Location of the proposed UCG project. Click to enlarge.

The CIRI project would be located on CIRI lands on the west side of Cook Inlet. CIRI executives presented the plan to state lawmakers at a joint hearing in Alaska on Friday. CIRI has begun the permitting process to start resource assessment testing. Power production could begin in early 2014.

CIRI says it is committed to carbon capture and sequestration by way of enhanced oil recovery. The integration of carbon capture and sequestration plus UCG would be a first, according to CIRI.

The UCG process utilizes two wells drilled in to a coal seam. One well injects an oxidant such as air to start a combustion reaction underground. Heat and pressure gasify the coal, and the second well produces to the surface. Ash and other byproducts remain underground.

UCG syngas arrives at the surface at temperatures and pressures that allow relatively easy, low-cost carbon capture using existing scrubbing technologies.

UCG-produced syngas using pre-combustion carbon capture can result in lower CO2 emissions than a combined-cycle natural gas power plant, according to the company, with emissions of criteria pollutants (SOx, NOx, etc.) comparable to natural gas.

The proposed CIRI site is more than 650 feet below the surface, below the fresh water aquifer and isolated from it by impermeable overlying rock layers.

CIRI. CIRI is one of 12 Alaska-based regional corporations established by the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971 to benefit Alaska Natives who had ties to the Cook Inlet region.

CIRI’s overall business portfolio includes tourism, real estate, wireless communications, and traditional and alternative energy. It has substantial ownership of surface and subsurface land around Cook Inlet and Southcentral Alaska.

CIRI, based in Anchorage, is owned by more than 7,200 Alaska Native shareholders of Athabascan and Southeast Indian, Inupiat and Yupik Eskimo, Alutiiq and Aleut descent.




Wouldn't it be much easier, cheaper, faster and cleaner to build 40 5mW windmills ?


Between wind and geothermal, they could probably get by, it is not densely populated. No one is coming in to pay for that, but someone is coming in to pay for this.



Why would someone discriminate against Wind and Geothermal power in favour of Coal based? Are we that far off track?


Wind is variable and there may be unfavorable geologic conditions up there in Alaska, so geothermal may not work either. Theoretically, this could provide steady baseload power for a long period of time.


Maybe, but even the people who want to sell you as much coal-power electricity as they can freely admit their systems can handle 20% of that 'variable' wind power.

Of course it's ironic that these people have used this 'only 20%' gag to keep all but ~2% wind power out of the market.


There is plenty of natural gas up there, they want to build a $20 billion dollar natural gas pipeline to bring in down. There may not be any pipelines to bring it to this region, but they could build them.

It sounds like it has to do with the easiest and cheapest way...again. The coal is there, they can use it under ground and not even dig it up, so it gets funded. Other factors may not matter, this is profitable so it is proposed.


Windmills certainly cannot produce liquid hydrocarbon fuels for transportation as easily as this coal project.

Full gas to liquids ahead damn the eco freaks.


It might make more sense to make CTL in this case. They tanker oil down the coast, why not finished products? That would eliminate the need for the natural gas pipeline. I would rather sell $2 gasoline than 40 cent natural gas.

Carlos Fandango

Talk is cheap. Promises are easy to make.

Carbon capture is not cheap. Promises are easy to break.


Am I the only person that thinks of Centralia PA whenever this technology comes up? Centralia was abandoned due to coal seam that has been burning since 1962. The UCG folks should be limited to setting up in Centralia to minimize the environmental impact of the current burning coal seam and only once they can figure out how to control the fire there should they be allowed to venture else ware. Only in Alaska will the rest of the country limit oil well production due to environmental concerns but allow an unknown, untested, unproven, unregulated tech like this start up.

Henry Gibson

A very good workable method of lessening the importing of oil and its cost is to convert coal to liquid transportation fuels. It should be the USs' major industrial project. Import duties on foreign oils would make it pay and pay for it. Coal can be diverted to liquid fuel and reactors would supply electricity. ..HG..


Imported oil fees were suggested 30 years ago, but never implemented. The revenue from that going to alternative fuels would have gotten us off middle eastern oil long ago. But alas, that never came to pass, so here we are today.


Pardon me ignorance but the idea of starting an underground coal fire for whatever purpose seem ridiculous.

And then they say they are committed to carbon capture? Come on! Since when starting a potentially uncontrollable coal fire has anything to do with that?

I would get a Hummer to help filter and clean teh air.


These are interesting ideas, as long as they are economically viable without subsidies. Essentially this competes with natural gas, and that makes it commercially dubious. CO2 sequestration just raised the cost bar and makes it even more dubious, once these projects are established it would not take much for that part of it to go away, and that is ok, not everyone is a faithful believer in doom&gloom.

These underground fires are safe and controllable, the air has to be pumped in or the fire goes out.. the location is to far underground for it to be self-sustainable.


Families for a Clean Tennessee Video Hits the Streets!


Families for a Clean Tennessee released a video reinforcing a poll conducted
by Insider Advantage. The poll uncovered that more than 80% of voters
oppose dumping nuclear waste in ordinary commercial landfills.

The poll also uncovered the following:

* 90% believe nuclear waste should be disposed of in long-term isolation
* More than 75% of likely voters-both Democrats and Republicans-- are more
likely to support a candidate for Governor that is opposed to nuclear
dumping and the BSFR program.
* Nearly 60% are more likely to support a legislative candidate that is
opposed to nuclear dumping and the BSFR program.
* More than 50% have stated they would actively work for the election of any
candidate from either party that opposes the dumping of nuclear waste in
Tennessee landfills.
* More than 50% support Senate Bill 687, and more than 60% are more likely
to vote for candidates that support Senate Bill 687.
* 63.5% believe that under no circumstance should nuclear waste be dumped in

A copy of the poll has been sent to every legislator in Tennessee along with
a pledge asking them to support ending the practice of Bulk Survey for


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