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Coal is valued for its energy content, and, since the 1880s, has been widely used to generate electricity. Coal mining has had many developments over the recent years, from the early days of men tunneling, digging and manually extracting the coal on carts to large open cut and long wall mines. Mining at this scale requires the use of draglines trucks conveyors jacks and shearers. Traditional coal mining methods are described below, however this section of our website focusses on sourcing personnel for the developing UCG industry.

UCG was first proposed as early as 1868 in England by the engineering pioneer Sir William Siemens, who founded the company that became the multinational technology giant that bears his name. Siemens thought underground gasification could be a way to make use of waste coal left behind in mines.

The idea today is to apply UCG to the type of narrow coal seams that can't be mined conventionally. Oxidants, usually oxygen and steam.

WHAT IS UCG?

The goal of traditional coal mining is to obtain coal from the ground.

UCG is not traditional coal mining. This involves the in-situ gasification of coal as opposed to mining as described above. This is a new exciting method which is developing fast and moving forward with a number of projects already initiated. The UCG process is described below.

Underground Coal Gasification (UCG) is a method of converting unworked coal (coal still in the ground) into a combustible gas which can be used for industrial heating, power generation or the manufacture of hydrogen, synthetic natural gas or diesel fuel.

UCG technology allows countries that are endowed with coal to fully utilize their resource from otherwise unrecoverable coal deposits in an economically viable and environmentally safe way. UCG turns this resource into high value products including:

  • Clean power
  • Liquid fuels
  • Syngas
  • Fertilizers and other chemical feed stocks.

UCG uses a similar process to surface gasification. The main difference between both gasification processes is that in UCG the cavity itself becomes the reactor so that the gasification of coal takes place underground instead of at the surface.

The basic UCG process involves drilling two wells into the coal, one for injection of the oxidants (water/air or water/oxygen mixtures) and another well some distance away to bring the product gas to the surface.

The coal at the base of the first well is then heated to temperatures that would normally cause the coal to burn. However, through careful regulation of the oxidant flow, the coal does not burn but rather separates into the syngas. The syngas is then drawn out of the second well.

Two different methods of UCG have evolved and are commercially available:

  • Vertical wells combined with methods for opening the pathway between the wells.
  • Inseam boreholes using technology adapted from oil and gas production that can move the injection point during the process.

ADVANTAGES OF UCG

  • The energy can either be used immediately in the form of electricity or stored as a fuel for future and portable consumption.
  • It eliminates the need for mining and the dangers to miners and environmental degradation associated with it.
  • It makes deep or difficult to access coal seams into useable energy assets.
  • The processing of the coal is kept underground which means surface and air emissions are dramatically reduced.

WHERE DOES IT COME FROM?

Coal is called a fossil fuel because it was formed from the remains of vegetation that grew as long as 400 million years ago. It is often referred to as "buried sunshine," because the plants which formed coal captured energy from the sun through photosynthesis to create the compounds that make up plant tissues. The most important element in the plant material is carbon, which gives coal most of its energy.

Most of our coal was formed about 300 million years ago, when much of the earth was covered by steamy swamps. As plants and trees died, their remains sank to the bottom of the swampy areas, accumulating layer upon layer and eventually forming a soggy, dense material called peat.

Over long periods of time, the makeup of the earth's surface changed, and seas and great rivers caused deposits of sand, clay and other mineral matter to accumulate, burying the peat. Sandstone and other sedimentary rocks were formed, and the pressure caused by their weight squeezed water from the peat. Increasingly deeper burial and the heat associated with it gradually changed the material to coal. Scientists estimate that from 3 to 7 feet of compacted plant matter was required to form 1 foot of bituminous coal.

Coal formation is a continuing process, with some of our newest coal a mere 1 million years old. Today, in areas such as the Great Dismal Swamp of North Carolina and Virginia, the Okefenokee Swamp of Georgia, and the Everglades in Florida, plant life decays and subsides, eventually to be covered by silts and sands and other matter. Perhaps millions of years from now, those areas will contain large coal beds.

WHERE IS IT USED?

Coal remains the world's main source of power, providing a quarter of our primary energy and more than 40% of our electricity, and it will continue to do so for many years to come. The current challenge is how to harness coal's energy more cleanly, therefore interest in UCG as a secure and economic source of energy has increased over the past five years. Most coal producing countries now have a comprehensive UCG programme comprising of feasibility studies, planning demonstrations and commercial scale projects. Commercial scale projects have started in Australia, China, South Africa and others such as India, Canada and the UK are not far behind.

The United Kingdom is well placed within Europe in having large reserves of indigenous coal both onshore and offshore in the southern North Sea. These reserves have the potential to provide security of future energy supplies long after oil and natural gas are exhausted. Traditional mining methods however are not suited to working offshore reserves, and development and infrastructure costs of new mines can render the exploitation of landward reserves uneconomical. Therefore, the concept of gasifying coal underground and bringing the energy to the surface as a gas for subsequent use in heating or power generation has considerable attraction. UCG has the potential to provide a clean and convenient source of energy from coal seams where traditional mining methods are either impossible or uneconomical.

WHY CHOOSE A CAREER IN UCG?

New and innovative ways of generating energy are in high demand. New directional (horizontal) drilling has helped make UCG viable. Reasons to join the industry include:

  • There are many projects planned within estuaries or close to shore around the UK and many licences to commence drilling have been granted. The majority of current projects planned around the UK and overseas are close enough to shore to allow land based plant and assets to be constructed (i.e. no need for offshore facilities).
  • The technology has been proven outside the UK and there is great potential for work around the globe.
  • You will be at the forefront of a new method of producing energy and would be joining an industry in its infancy. This should provide excellent opportunities and potential for career progression.

WHAT PERSONNEL ARE IN DEMAND WHO SHOULD CONTACT US?

There are limited people with experience in this field; those that have experience have been involved with concept and feasibility only generally.

Typically the following personnel should have potential for transfer with a little assistance:

Project Managers, Project Engineers, Process engineers and designers, Piping engineers and designers, Electrical engineers and designers, Mechanical engineers and designers, Structural engineers and designers, Instrumentation engineers and designers, Safety personnel, Technical Safety engineers, planning engineers, document controllers, admin personnel.

There is also a demand for senior commercial and managerial roles such as business development and sales managers, environmental impact assessors, government relations, project management and niche expertise of drilling and geosciences for unconventional exploration and production.

Working in the UCG industry is an exciting choice and should prove to be a career with longevity and prospects.

TALK TO US ABOUT GETTING AHEAD OF THE GAME AND HOW WE CAN ASSIST YOU IN YOUR TRANSFER TO THE UCG INDUSTRY.

  • In most instances no training will be required prior to placement; we will put you in touch with employers happy to engage you with your current skills and qualifications.

COALBEDMETHANE INDUSTRY (CBM)

HISTORY

When plant material such as roots, bark, and wood are deposited in swamps or swampy lakes, they undergo bacterial and chemical changes to make peat deposits. As the peat is buried deeper, under layers of sand and mud, over millions of years, it changes to brown coal, then bituminous coal, and eventually hard, anthracite coal (coalification process).

As the coal is formed, the decomposing organic material produces methane gas, as well as nitrogen, carbon dioxide, and other gases. The burial process puts pressure on the coal, which keeps much of the gas in the coal.Like natural gas from conventional sources, CBM is "sweet” not "sour” as it doesn’t contain hydrogen sulphide. CBM is an unconventional gas as the gas is contained in difficult-to-produce reservoirs, which require special completion, stimulation and/or production techniques to achieve economic production. The coal remains in place after the CBM is removed.

 

The presence of methane is well known from its occurrence in the coal mining industry, particularly underground mining where it can present serious safety risks. In fact, CBM production began as a technology for improving the safety and productivity of underground coal mining and preventing explosions. Not only does it provide the same service now, it also decreases emissions of greenhouse gas from coal mines and decreases air pollution because it is a clean-burning fuel.

WHAT IS COALBED METHANE?

Coalbed methane (CBM) – sometimes referred to as coal seam gas (CSG) is natural gas that is stored (‘adsorbed”) in deeply buried coal seams. CBM is pipeline-quality gas that requires no or minimal processing prior to sale.

Chemically, CBM is similar to other sources of natural gas (about 95% pure methane) and can be sold into any market. As above CBM is a "sweet gas” as it generally does not contain hydrogen sulphide and is considered to be more environmentally friendly than oil, coal or even conventional natural gas. CBM contains very little heavier hydrocarbons such aspropane or butane, and no natural gas condensate which is often found in conventional natural gas. CBM may contain a small percentage of carbon dioxide.

CBM is extracted by drilling a well into a coal seam applying similar techniques used for other natural gas wells. The sides of the well are "cased" with cemented steel pipe. Usually, small holes, called perforations, are then made in the wall of the casing to let the CBM flow through into the well bore and up the casing to the surface. In some cases the wells are drilled horizontally and the coal seams are often stimulated or "fractured" to make the CBM flow more freely.Standard drilling and extraction technology is used or adapted as conditions require.

ADVANTAGES OF CBM

·It will boost domestic oil production and drive down gas prices.

 

·It could contribute significantly to the UK’s future energy needs.

·Alternative disposal of a problem gas whilst simultaneously harnessing it as an energy source

·Extreme profitability with overall efficiency of up to 90% in the case of combined heat and power, and 43.4% in the case of power generation alone.

·Smooth operation despite fluctuations in gas pressure, methane content and impurities in the gas.

·Depending on the gas composition, full output down to the lowest calorific values with 25% methane content

·Avoids the liberation of methane into the atmosphere which has 21 times the global warming potential of CO2

·The extraction of CBM in the vicinity of active collieries not only offers the potential of a local energy source, but also the advantage of pre-degassing of the methane in the coal. As a result, safety is increased during subsequent mining operations.

·Locations have been identified across swathes of the UK, particularly in the North of England.

 

 

 WHERE IS IT USED?

From humble beginnings as a coal mine degasification and safety technique developed in the USA during the 1970’s, CBM production is commercially well established in several countries. Interestingly, successful CBM production is occurring from a wide range of coal types, ages, and geologic settings. However, in all cases the keys to commercial success are favorable geologic conditions (good coal thickness, gas content/saturation, permeability); low capital and operating costs; and favorable gas markets and sales prices.

Global CBM production totals 5.8 Bcfd from 15 basins in the USA, Canada, Australia, China, and India. The USA still dominates with nearly 5 Bcfd of production and about 20 Tcf produced to date, but production there is expected to fall going forward because of resource maturity and depletion, not to mention very low gas prices. Australia may well displace the USA as the top-ranked producer, making a projected 6 Bcfd by 2020 once its LNG export plants are fully operational. CBM production in China (150 MMcfd) and India (10 MMcfd) is struggling due to more challenging geologic conditions and low well productivity. Other regions – notably Europe – have poor geologic conditions as well as high costs and have failed to commercialize.

WHY CHOOSE A CAREER IN CBM?

Reasons to join the industry include:

·There is a growing belief that the UK is on the verge of an energy boom, as the country begins to explore the vast onshore oil and gas reserves trapped in rock formations.

·The process used to extract CBM is safe and environmentally friendly using the now well developed methods and technology.

·It releases the vast quanties of natural gas gas locked underground.

·The industry is growing and exploration is ongoing

 WHAT PERSONNEL ARE IN DEMAND AND WHO SHOULD CONTACT US?

CV’s invited from all discipline including - Drilling and engineering, requirements also include Field Supervisors, and experienced fracturing equipment operators.

There will be further requirements and job opportunities as current exploration shifts to production in this developing industry.

Engineer positions usually prefer individuals who have experience working in the field. Engineer technicians, building and environmental engineers and construction crews are also required to help build and develop manufacturing plants. Jobs in trucking will boom as the pipe, equipment and the drilled natural resources all have to be shipped to and from the drilling sites. There are also some support positions available within the CBM industry, clerks/admin, supply ordering, finance, accounting, human resources etc.

Typically the following personnel should also have potential for transfer into the industry and the down-stream facilities with a little assistance:

Project Managers, Project Engineers, Process engineers and designers, Piping engineers and designers, Electrical engineers and designers, Mechanical engineers and designers, Structural engineers and designers, Instrumentation engineers and designers, Safety personnel, Technical Safety engineers, planning engineers, document controllers, admin personnel.

There is also a demand for senior commercial and managerial roles such as business development and sales managers, environmental impact assessors, government relations, project management and those with niche expertise of drilling and geosciences for unconventional exploration and production.

In addition demand for HSE advisors, contract specialists, operators, technicians and engineers is rising.

Working in the CBM industry is an exciting choice and should prove to be a career with longevity and prospects.

Talk to us about getting ahead of the game and how we can assist you in your transfer to Coalbed Methane.

·In many instances no training will be required prior to placement; we will endeavour to put you in touch with employers happy to engage you with your current skills and qualifications.

We will help you re-engineer yourself into this developing high prospects industry.

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