Underground Coal Gasification

At least 60% of Montana’s vast coal resources lie more than 500 feet below the surface and cannot be accessed using conventional mining methods. However, new technologies such as In Situ or Underground Coal Gasification (UCG) make our “deep coal” resources economically attractive.

UCG is a proven method of gasifying deep, unmineable coal seams and capturing their energy content—in the form of product gases—at the surface. It is a “clean coal” process which holds many advantages over conventional coal-fired power plants and surface gasification:

  • Provides a mechanism to exploit coal which is too deep for conventional mining.
  • All gases resulting from underground burning are captured; product gases are processed and sold, and waste gases such as CO2 can be captured and re-injected into underground geologic storage sites.
  • Produced gases offer a great deal of flexibility for final marketable products, including clean fuel for gas turbines, low-cost coal-to-liquids, and petrochemicals.
  • Economically more favorable than mining followed by surface gasification.
  • Smaller environmental footprint than surface mines and surface gasification.
  • Avoids the hazards and some of the costs inherent in underground mining.

The Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology is currently involved in research to identify and study eastern Montana coal seams to determine their suitability for use in the UCG process.

Project Report to (MBRCT) Montana Board of Research and Commercialization Technology
Text (.08 Mb)
Plates (12.1Mb)

This project is partially funded by the Montana Board of Research and Commercialization Technology (MBRCT). All data and interpretations are preliminary and subject to change without notice.

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