Bruce Peachey1 Karen Budwill2 and Martin Mkandawire3.
1New Paradigm Engineering Ltd, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
2Alberta Innovates Technology Futures, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
3Verschuren Institute, Cape Breton University, Sydney, Nova Scotia.
Coal is still the largest source of energy in the world and globally coal consumption for power generation is still on the rise to meet the needs of growing economies, mainly in the Asia Pacific region which consumes ~66% of the world’s coal production.. Meanwhile, Canada has vast coal resources which are in danger of being lost as energy resources, to reduce our GHG emissions. When over 1.3 billion people still live without a reliable power supply, Canadian researchers should still be looking for a way of more sustainably generating power from coal, instead of ignoring the issue.
This presentation will describe the potential to utilize abandoned underground coal mines, as in-situ bioreactors, to generate bioproducts while significantly reducing the environmental impacts inherent in traditional, or “clean coal”, processes. The project, will investigate three different aspects of this concept, namely: 1) use of coal mines to generate bio-methane by injecting nutrients, waste heat, CO2, with water to access the energy in the coal left behind from mining; 2) use mines as large scale, low cost bioreactors for other bioprocesses to address the high cost of the long retention times required for bio processes; and 3) use bio-methods to deal with mine water, methane emissions and other legacy coal mine issues. This builds on prior work done through the $11M Genome Canada “Hydrocarbon Metagenomics Project (HMP)” and a 4 year $2.5M CMC/NRC project on “Bioconversion of Coal by Enhanced Engineering Pathways into Fuel Products”. These earlier projects showed that biologic consortia exist in Western North American coal formations and that biomethane generation can be greatly accelerated. The goal of the new project is to quantify and enhance the bio-yields and demonstrate the relative commercial viability of these concepts in Canada and Internationally.