Sasol New Energy and Eskom have signed a research agreement to jointly explore the full value chain of underground coal gasification (UCG) technology development in South Africa.
The agreement includes knowledge sharing and aims at research cooperation between the two parties in evaluating the UCG technology. UCG is a coal to synthesis gas technology that uses air or oxygen to gasify coal in the coal deposit underground through a series of injection and extraction wells.
Eskom initiated their UCG technology development in 2002 and successfully piloted it for 5 years. The results proved that the technology works and that it is able to efficiently extract the energy from complex, poor quality coal resources. The next step is to improve and then prove the quality of the gas.
Both Sasol and Eskom have a licensing agreement with technology partner, Ergo Exergy Technologies Inc. (Ergo Exergy) of Canada. Ergo Exergy’s EUCG™ technology has been the basis for the success of three UCG projects in the past few years. These projects include the Huntly West UCG project in New Zealand developed by Solid Energy, Linc Energy’s initial Chinchilla UCG project in Australia and Eskom’s Majuba UCG pilot project in South Africa. The EUCG™ technology is also being applied in the development of commercial UCG based energy projects in Canada, the United States (US), Australia, New Zealand, India, China and other countries.
“We are excited about UCG as a technology for Sasol and specifically in the South African environment. UCG has the potential to utilise coal that is not minable through conventional mining technologies,” said Henri Loubser, Managing Director, Sasol New Energy.
“Eskom is proud of its role as a global leader in this technology which we believe has huge potential to produce economic, social and environmental returns. At the same time this is not a project we can execute alone and partnerships such as the one announced today will help us maximise the benefits to South Africa,” said Dr Steve Lennon, Group Executive (Sustainability) at Eskom.
Coal is an essential component of the global and South African energy mix and will be for decades to come. UCG, as a mining method, has the potential to unlock strategic coal resources in a future carbon-constrained world. Eskom estimates that UCG could more than double the current recoverable coal reserves in South Africa.
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