Industrial Production of Coalbed Methane Discussed at International Forum

KARAGANDA — The technology of industrial development of coalbed methane in coalmining field was the main topic of a June 20 international forum.

Representatives of large companies from Russia, Spain, China and the United States working in the area or interested in the project shared the experience of extracting simple hydrocarbons from coalbeds.

The forum, organised by the city’s governorate and the KazTransGas and Sary-Arka companies, is pursuant to developing unconventional hydrocarbon resources, seeking out the options for gasification in the country and building a new energy industry in Kazakhstan.

“We are in talks with potential investors. The project’s aim is for Karaganda and Astana to use new energy sources. The question is their cost. To reduce it, we are studying the existing technology in the world,” Deputy (Akim) Governor of the region Anuar Akhmetzhanov said in the interview.

The forecasted resources of colliery gas in the field’s coalbeds are around 900 billion cubic metres, or about 85 percent of the overall reserves in Kazakhstan. The total annual demand for gas in the region is 1-1.5 billion cubic metres. Back in the Soviet times, works were carried out in the coalfield on safe exploration and production of methane. The task now is upgrading technologies in the priority sectors of the economy.

According to local experts, the development of production and utilisation of coalbed methane will give non-conventional clean energy and partly replace the coal used in the energy of the industrially-developed central and eastern regions of Kazakhstan. As international experience shows, methane in the utilities sector and cars will replace less environmentally-friendly and more expensive liquid hydrocarbons and liquefied gas.

New productions open new jobs and with industrial development of methane (CH4), coal mines’ emissions as well as the economic costs of the subsequent extraction of coal will decrease, while mining safety in the pits will increase.

Carlos Barat, director of the Spanish production company Cobro, sees cooperation with Kazakhstan as promising and believes that production costs in the region will be much lower than in Europe due to the natural conditions of flat terrain and shallow deposits.

The Sary-Arka SEC received two contracts for subsurface use and survey works are already underway. Kazakhstan lacks its own matured technology, it was stated. In the past year, the first 800-metre well was drilled in the Taldykuduk field and the experience proved that methane production is not as simple as it seemed.

“We thought it was enough to drill a well for the gas to go from it, like in oil and gas extraction. But this method proved to be not applicable to methane, which has its own quirks and nuances,” Yessen Yesirkeyev, specialist of Taldykuduk drilling company, admitted. “We are now studying the difficulties and conducting tests.”

A roadmap of the projects is ready and relevant legislation is in the making. The process of industrial production of coalbed methane will take a long time, which in turn necessitates tax incentives to attract investors. The company expects to get down to commercial production no later than in 2017.

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