Australian oil and gas developer Linc Energy is a new player in Wyoming’s humming oil and gas patch, bringing a focus on underground “cooking” of coal seams to create synthetic gas (syngas) and natural gas liquids.
Brisbane-based Linc has not specified where or how it would enter the Wyoming energy rush, and a state Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) spokesperson told NGI Tuesday that so far no application for a permit has been filed by the company that bills itself as Australia’s leader in clean coal technology.
Linc holds extensive coal leases in Wyoming’s Power River Basin, totaling 92,050 acres or 372.5 square kilometers, with the same magnitude of presence in the Williston Basin in Montana/North Dakota, according to its website. It operates a research and development (R&D) project in the Australian state of Queensland, and is planning a commercial facility in South Australia.
Linc has said that once it acquires approvals from Wyoming, it will build an underground coal gasification demonstration project in the Powder River Basin, but the timing is still uncertain based on the company’s statements in recent news reports that also have reported at least two coal-to-liquids projects also in the conceptual stages.
Generally, Wyoming has some other production companies looking at variations of Linc’s concept, but so far there is only one permitted project, a coal-to-liquids project in Carbon County by Medicine Bow Fuel & Power LLC. That project is still working on cost estimates and securing financing, according to DEQ’s spokesperson, who noted site work is slated for next year and initial structures in place in 2013.
Linc officials on the company website are particularly bullish about a process for using some of the underground syngas to produce gas to liquids (GTL), something for which the domestic U.S. market is growing as an offshoot of plentiful shale gas supplies and continuing relatively low prices for natural gas.
Syngas and GTLs can be produced where there is first suitably deep coal for the initial gasification process, Linc says on its website. The syngas can be produced relatively economically, so part of it can then be turned into GTL products, including liquid propane, petrol, kerosene, diesel and jet fuel.
“These final end products contain zero sulfur, olefins, metals, alcohols and aromatics and are superior in quality to conventional refinery fuels,” a Linc spokesperson said.
In Linc’s approach, wells are drilled below the water table into coal seams, allowing injection of air and oxygen and to allow developed syngas to flow out. The coal seam is dried and then ignited chemically. Linc emphasizes that the coal is not burned. And eventually one of the byproducts, carbon dioxide, will be used in enhanced oil recovery on acreage elsewhere in Wyoming that the company has acquired.
Even before a permit has been issued or any definitive plans held up to public review, reports indicate that at least one landowners’ group, the Power River Basin Resource Council, has expressed concerns about the underground production and is questioning the company that has leased land throughout the basin.
“We have significant concerns about the lack of information that has been disclosed to the public about these proposals,” said Shannon Anderson, a council organizer told reporters.
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