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Linc Energy submits permit for Wyoming underground coal gasification demo facility

Australia-based Linc Energy Ltd. has submitted a permit application and commenced the approval process with the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality (WDEQ) to build and operate a Underground Coal Gasification (UCG) demonstration plant in its coal tenement lease areas in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin (PRB). (Earlier post.)

Linc recently announced the completion and start-up of its fifth underground coal gasifier (Gasifier 5) at Chinchilla, Australia (earlier post). That represented the final phase in the technological development of Linc Energy’s UCG technology prior to its commercial roll-out.

The Wyoming permit application is based upon more than 16 months of continuous work and collection of baseline data there. As part of the permitting requirements and site feasibility, Linc Energy has conducted drilling and coring operations; hydrogeological studies with baseline groundwater sampling; and wildlife and vegetation surveys on the UCG demonstration site located near Wright, Wyoming. The application includes detailed hydrogeology models; UCG cavity growth models; and subsidence control models prepared using Linc Energy’s proprietary UCG technology.

Linc Energy is a significant holder of state-owned coal leases in the PRB, controlling approximately 184,210 acres (287 sq. miles or 745 sq. km) of coal within the Wyoming PRB. In addition to Linc Energy’s original GasTech lease acquisitions in 2009 and 2010, the company has acquired an additional 17,280 acres of coal leases from the State of Wyoming in 2011. This additional acreage is near Linc Energy’s latest oil field acquisition, advancing the company’s business strategy of converting the gasified coal to salable Gas-to-Liquids (GTL) products, exportable power and utilizing the CO2 produced in Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) projects.

Linc Energy’s geologists are in the process of quantifying the size of the coal deposit within the company’s expanding PRB leasehold. In drilling an exploratory well in the PRB it is not uncommon for Linc Energy to discover seven different coal seams present, the company said.

On the “Buff Logical Mining Unit” where the demonstration project will commence, Linc has identified the following:

  • 15ft (4.6 m) coal seam at 150ft (46m),
  • 10ft (3m) coal seam at 600ft (182m),
  • 50ft (15m) “Big George” coal seam at 900ft (274m),
  • 30ft (9m) “Wyodak” coal seam at 1100ft (335m),
  • 20ft (6.1m) coal seam at 1500ft (457m),
  • 20ft (6.1m) coal seam at 2000ft (610m), and
  • 20ft (6.1m) coal seam at 2100ft (640m).

Linc Energy is targeting the “Wyodak” seam for this particular UCG trial; though the potential to extract energy from this region across several seams is significant and quite common, the company said.

Following the submission of the UCG permit application, the WDEQ will perform a completeness review and then open a public comment period. This process is anticipated to take approximately 180 days. To assist with the permit review the WDEQ has contracted an expert third party firm who will work in conjunction with the WDEQ to review and comment on Linc Energy’s permit application.

Upon issuance of a permit, construction for the surface facilities will commence. The development time for Gasifier 6 will be minimized, as much of the pre-approval preparatory work is already completed, according to Linc. This represents the final phase in the technological development of Linc Energy’s UCG technology prior to its commercial roll-out. To date, more than 20 monitoring wells have been drilled into the Wyodak coal seam, overburden and underburden and many of the surface facilities will be skid mounted and built prior to permit approval; thus only the flanging up of surface equipment will be required.

Linc is also taking steps to erect a site office and, at the request of the WDEQ, plans are in place to drill up to 18 trend wells by the end of the year, forming an ellipse around the proposed gasifier about 200 feet away from the gasifier centerline.

Linc Energy anticipates igniting the gasifier to complete the 90 day gasification demonstration at the Wyoming UCG Demonstration Site in the second quarter of 2012. After demonstrating to the WDEQ that Linc Energy has met the conditions outlined in the permit, the company intends to develop commercial UCG operations in the PRB.

—Peter Bond

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