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Journal of the Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy

On-line version ISSN 2411-9717
Print version ISSN 0038-223X


HSU, C.; DAVIES, P.T.; WAGNER, N.J.  and  KAUCHALI, S.. Investigation of cavity formation in lump coal in the context of underground coal gasification. J. S. Afr. Inst. Min. Metall. [online]. 2014, vol.114, n.4, pp.305-310. ISSN 2411-9717.

Underground coal gasification (UCG) is becoming more popular as the reserves of good quality, mineable coal are starting to diminish, and yet the global energy demand from coal is still increasing. The purpose of this research project was to investigate cavity formation within a coal block due to the combustion reactions in the context of UCG. The cavity plays a pivotal role in the UCG process, as it is essentially the gasification reactor. Cavity formation in an in situ gasification process using the forward combustion linking method (FCL) had been investigated, and a laboratory model was created to simulate the process. The experiment was performed by drilling a U-shaped tunnel into a coal block, which was then combusted internally with air that was fed through an injection hole. A heating element (at approximately 500°C) was used to supply the required heat for combustion at the base of the injection well. The coal blocks were analysed using micro-focus X-ray tomography. The tomography results showed that the coal tended to crack along the bedding plane after a short duration of combustion, due to either the formation of clinker or the expansion of swelling vitrinite along the horizontal tunnel. The deposit was thicker at the base of the injection well compared to the base of the production well; this may have been caused by the turbulence of the air flow and the relatively high oxygen concentration at the base of the injection well. A comparison of the results with work by Daggupati et al. (2010) showed the same trend, despite the slightly different methodology applied.

Keywords : underground coal gasification; cavity formation; gasification reactor; forward combustion linking method (FCL); clinker; vitrinite; micro-focus X-ray tomography.

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