Pakistan is undergoing acute energy shortfall. Presently, in Pakistan, only about half the population has access to electricity. Moreover, increasing urbanization and industrialization has made the problem twofold. On one side, the existing power generation does not suffice the prevailing requirement and on other side, day by day there is a rising obligation of significant expansion in power supply.
Pakistan has large coal reserves exceeding 195 billion tons whereas the present share of coal in the overall energy mix is only about 6 %. Underground coal gasification (UCG) has lately gained attention as a possible method to generate electricity. The process is safer and more energy efficient than the conventional combination of coal mining and surface combustion. In addition, UCG has some environmental performance advantages, including reduced greenhouse gas emissions, though the net impact on the environment is still a matter for further investigation.
Despite the significant research and development efforts to date and the potential benefits over existing coal utilization methods, a commercial UCG project has not yet been undertaken in the western world. This is partly due to the mature technology and economics of competing processes for power generation and partly due to the UCG process itself, which presents a number of barriers to commercialization. To date, commercialization has been hampered by:
1. site specific nature of the performance of UCG, which is sensitive to coal seam properties, geological and hydro-geological conditions;
2. the formidable challenge of designing and operating a gasification process with a lot less freely adjustable parameters than surface gasifiers, but still producing essentially the same product;
3. the difficulty and expense of obtaining accurate and reliable data from operating underground coal gasifiers, in order to understand fundamental processes;
4. limited experience of the variation of UCG performance with changes in site characteristics and operating parameters;
5. a lack of computer modeling tools which can provide performance estimates; in particular comprehensive process models.
It is clear that in order to realize the potential benefits of UCG, further research and development is needed to address the most significant issues and to reduce project risks to levels which commercial developers are comfortable with. This might be achieved through a comprehensive combination of large scale field trials and theoretical investigation. An important component in any further studies is the application of computer modelling which will be useful in encapsulating and testing the understanding and knowledge of the process. This project aims to develop a computer modelling tool to simulate and control the underground coal gasification process.