Growing gas prices have been a constant source of concern for everyone in recent years. No matter how much money they make, no one wants to pay a lot to put gas in their car, especially now that many people are out of a job. Unfortunately, paying extra at the pump seems inevitable since the average person relies on gas in their daily life. Whether they have a job to attend everyday or are looking for one, most people cannot just refuse to pay the high prices for gas. However, this scenario is likely to change in the future, thanks to a little-known technology called underground coal gasification.
Considering its ability to change the way we power our cars, along with its effect on our pocketbooks, it is surprising that more people do not know about underground coal gasification. It carries the added bonus of decreasing emissions and removing the need for mining, which should appeal to everyone in a world that is “going green.” Though the most important aspects of underground coal gasification deal with saving money and our planet, some knowledge of how the process works is helpful when it comes to promoting this cause.
Underground coal gasification takes advantage of our abundant natural resources while using technology intelligently. To start the process, two wells are drilled just above where the coal lies, which is called the coal seam. Air is pumped in through the first well, and the coal is ignited until it reaches temperatures high enough to create carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, hydrogen, and negligible amounts of hydrogen sulfide and methane. Oxidants introduced through the first well guide the newly created synthetic gas out through the second well, where it is filtered to create clean fuel.
Though most people are either unaware of underground coal gasification or have only recently heard about it, the idea has been around for some time. Basic work was performed on the process as early as the late 19th century, though most experimentation at that time was thwarted by World War I and not resumed until World War II ended. Most testing of this process occurred in what was the Soviet Union around the year 1930. However, other countries have since gained an interest in underground coal gasification. China is just one of them, and is now home of the leading operation.
The U.S. also experimented with the technology for some time, particularly taking interest during the 1970s due to the energy crisis at that time. But the country became complacent when oil prices suddenly plummeted in the 1980s, effectively stopping investigations into underground coal gasification. Due to surging oil prices and increased concern for the environment, interest in the process has once again picked up. Recent demonstrations near a town called Chinchilla in Queensland, Australia, have shown that the process is much more beneficial for the environment than our current method of obtaining energy. These findings have added to the worldwide interest in underground coal gasification.
One might wonder how this process will save consumers money. It’s a simple example of supply and demand. Oil prices increase substantially when one of our main oil suppliers suspends sales to our country, or when equipment that is instrumental in giving us oil breaks down temporarily. Oil is a somewhat limited resource, which makes it expensive. Turning our natural resource of coal into gas not only means that there is more of it, but the process is less expensive than traditional mining methods. The simple transportation of gas is also far less costly than that of oil or solid coal, and there is no waste to clean up since the entire process is completed underground. The resulting gas is filtered once it hits open air, so what we see is called a clean fuel.
The lack of knowledge among the general public regarding underground coal gasification has hindered its progression as the next mainstream source of energy. Anyone interested in both saving money on gas in the near future and saving the environment at the same time should look further into this process. Everyone knows our current way of obtaining energy needs a makeover, and taking a chance on a new technique like underground coal gasification could result in the change the energy industry needs.