The coal production has been increasing from the past few decades and is expected to grow in the future. The Energy Information Administration (EIA) forecasts the growth of coal consumption by 3.9% in 2014 as compared to 2013. The majority of the coal reserves of the world are located at a greater depth to be mined using the traditional technologies. However, the underground gasification can convert this unused coal into syngas, which can be applied to produce power without mining the coal. The underground coal gasification provides a safer, cheaper and cleaner method of converting the coal into a product gas. The development of infrastructure in the emerging nations, coupled with the increasing demand for the clean source of energy, can have the direct implications on the underground coal gasification market. Most of the countries with the large underground coal reserves can shift towards the use of underground coal gasification techniques for extraction of the product gas.
The coal gasification market can be segmented on the basis of technology, applications and the locations of the countries applying the underground coal gasification techniques. The quality of the gas produced depends upon the several factors, such as the coal properties, pressure under the coal seam, feed conditions and the heat and the mass transport under the coal seam. The two common methods for preparing a coal seam for the underground coal gasification purpose include the shaft underground coal gasification method and the shaft-less underground coal gasification method. The shaft underground coal gasification methods use the shafts and the mine galleries for the transportation of the products and the gasification reagents. Presently, this method is only used in the closed coal mines due to safety and economic reasons. Recently, much of the focus is given to the shaft-less underground coal gasification method that works on the concept of directional drilling. The underground coal gasification technology enables the countries to fully utilize their underground coal reserves, by converting them into useful high value products, such as syngas, liquid fuels, fertilizers and clean power. The underground coal gasification not only helps in harvesting the energy from the underground coal deposits but also provides a cleaner and cheaper source of energy to the end users.
The regional segmentation of the coal gasification market can be done by identifying the major countries using the coal gasification techniques. The major countries include the United States and Canada in North America; China, India, New Zealand and Australia in the Asia Pacific region; the United Kingdom and Russia in Europe and South Africa in the Rest of World. Among these, China has around 30 projects in different phases for underground coal gasification.
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Lower capital requirement, reduced cost of plant installation, reduced need of rail and road infrastructure, environmental obligations, and usage of deep lying copal deposit by converting them into useful products are the major drivers for the underground coal gasification market. The negative impact on environment caused by the drilling activities and the ground water contamination are the major restraints to the underground coal gasification market. The emerging countries with the large coal deposits, such as India and South Africa present an excellent opportunity for the development of the underground coal gasification market.
Some of the major companies in the underground coal gasification market are Linc Energy, Sasol Limited, Cougar Energy Limited, Eskom Holdings SOC Limited, Errgo Exergy Technologies Inc., and Wild Horse Energy.