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Carbon Dioxide In, Methane Out

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Australia’s Commonwealth and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) is co-helming an A$10 million project with China United Coal Bed Methane Corporation Limited (CUCBM) to demonstrate the technique of recovering methane from coal seams by pumping in carbon dioxide (CO2) and siphoning off the evacuating methane for use as fuel.

The process, called Enhanced Coal Bed Methane (ECBM) recovery, is to undergo some advancements under the partnership, in particular the nature of the angle of drilling into the coal seam. Normally, the CO2 injectors are drilled vertically into the seam from above, but it is thought that a horizontal injection procedure will be an improvement.

In the words of Dr. John Carras, the Director of CSIRO’s Advanced Coal Technology research: “ECBM wells are typically drilled vertically to inject CO2 into coal seams, but this demonstration project will drill horizontally, meaning the entry point of the well is more directly embedded in the coal seam, which we predict will increase the flow rate of CO2 for underground storage.”

The demonstration is to go ahead in the Shanxi Province of China. Dr. Carras went on to say, “CUCBM’s expertise in drilling practices and methane extraction will combine with CSIRO’s capabilities in coal characterisation, reservoir modelling, carbon dioxide monitoring and storage assurance to develop techniques that maximise both CO2 storage and methane recovery rates.”

“Working with our partners in China will allow CSIRO to increase its capabilities in pilot-scale demonstrations for carbon capture and storage technologies, This experience will inform the development of a low emissions coal technology that can also be deployed in Australia.”

The act of storing the CO2 underground means this method elicits extremely low greenhouse gas emissions, which is a hot topic among the critical debates in the acquisition of energy.

This new collaboration builds on a history between CSIRO and China, which have linked up before on such projects as the launch of a Post Combustion Capture (PCC) plant in Beijing, which captures CO2 emissions from a pulverised fuel power station’s flue, preventing its release into the atmosphere. Low emission power stations? You bet.

Stefan Abrutat is an award-winning freelance writer, blogger and editor in a wide variety of fields, from sports to science, the philosophy of science, humourism, history, travel and food.

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