12 Japan Firms to develop Underground Coal Gasification TechA team of 12 companies, which includes Mitsubishi Materials Corp. and Marubeni Corp., will begin developing technology for underground coal gasification, targeting commercial projects in five years.
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.
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.
The UCG partners intent to use the syngas for power generation, fuel and chemicals.
In cooperation with nine universities and research institutions, including Gunma University, Hokkaido University and the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science, the 12 companies plan to build a test facility in a domestic mine by 2010 to confirm the feasibility of the method and develop technologies for raising the ratios of natural gas and hydrogen—the more valuable components of the collected gas.
Because the new method requires less equipment than surface gasification, the cost of building manufacturing facilities capable of treating 100-150 tons of coal a day is expected to be 90% less, at about 700 million yen [US$6.5 million].