Underground fires still burn, but halt on commercialisation

Linc Energy's pilot plant near Chinchilla.
Linc Energy's pilot plant near Chinchilla. Contributed

UNDERGROUND coal gasification trials in the Surat Basin can continue, but no commercial facilities will be allowed until companies can prove they can extinguish the underground fires critical to the process.

Those are the recommendations of an independent scientific panel appointed by the State Government to examine the future of the underground coal gasification (UCG) industry in Queensland.

Two companies - Linc Energy and Carbon Energy - have pilot programs based near Chinchilla in the Surat Basin.

The UCG process involves burning underground coal seams to produced coal gas, known as syngas

The panel found that the companies could harvest gas, but had not demonstrated "effective remediation of underground chambers".

Minister for Natural Resources and Mines Andrew Cripps said it was important to prove that the industry could operate in a safe, balanced and sustainable manner.

"Like all emerging industries, the UCG industry must demonstrate it can be conducted in a manner that is environmentally safe, and that it can adequately co-exist with other resource activities," he said.

"I encourage Carbon Energy and Linc Energy to continue working with the government to demonstrate long-term technical and environmental sustainability of their trial projects."

The ISP report can be accessed at http://mines.industry.qld.gov.au/mining/underground-coal-gasification.htm


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