Restricted UCG research undertaken as gov't considers future

QUEENSLANDERS may be the best in the world at honing a new process that would harvest underground gas from coal seams, but they are not sure how to undo any damage.

Linc Energy and Carbon Energy are conducting restricted research on Underground Coal Gasification - an industry still banned in Queensland - while the State Government is considering its future.

UCG is a way of pulling gas from the ground by pumping in superheated steam that converts coal to vapour or "syngas". It is then sucked up to the surface.

On Monday, Mines Minister Andrew Cripps released recommendations from an independent panel of scientists designed to guide the government.

The findings suggest the government allow Linc and Carbon to continue, but ban any commercial project until they work out how to "decommission" their projects.

Both were described as leading the world in developing the gas harvesting technology.

A group owned by Linc Energy already runs a UCG project in the former Soviet state of Uzbekistan.

Mr Cripps said the state supported the suggestions, in principle, but would need more information.

Queensland Conservation Council executive director Toby Hutcheon wrote to Mr Cripps on Monday, saying that while a decision had not been made, UCG had to be stopped.

Mr Hutcheon said UCG threatened underground water supplies and produced less valuable fuel than coal seam gas.

He urged the state to focus on "low emission, clean resources".

UCG's reputation in Queensland was tarnished after Cougar Energy's test plant was shutdown in July 2010.

The government accused Cougar of allowing toxic chemicals to leach into groundwater supplies - it lay three charges against the company.

In turn, Cougar is suing the Queensland Government demanding $34 million in damages.



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