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Date posted 2010-07-29 07:51
Subject oilbarrel news 
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July 27, 2010

IGas Energy Well Makes Good Progress As The AIM Company Aligns Itself With Clean Energy Innovators At Keele University

With students home for the summer holidays, Keele University is a tranquil place to visit (save for the roaming parking inspectors, who are zealous in their pursuit of minor parking offences). Yet this pleasant leafy campus in North Staffordshire is the surprising location for a drilling rig, which is currently burrowing laterally under the university estate searching for gas-rich seams of coal. regulars will perhaps remember that Keele University is hosting AIM-quoted IGas Energy and its Canadian partner Nexen as they drill for coal bed methane on its lands. “There’s a huge resource of gas under our feet,” says Professor Peter Styles of Keele’s Earth Sciences department as he showed your correspondent around the remarkably low key drillsite on the fringes of the university’s latest building spree. “The coal here lies in very thick sequences, and it’s one of the gassiest coals by reputation.”

The coal looks set to have good permeability too (one of the critical factors when it comes to CBM projects) as indicated by a test well drilled by IGas and Nexen in 2008 at Willoughbridge, just over five miles away. And there’s a lot of coal. The coal that underlies the university was never mined because the land was part of the Sneyd family estate – local bigwigs that lost their fortune by the early part of the 20th century – so there is a rich resource for the coal bed methane explorers.

After a certain amount of planning delay – largely due to the concerns of the nearby golf course – the drilling rig was installed earlier this summer and is currently making good progress with the well (drawing zero attention from the remaining students, locals and golfers, testament to how discreet modern onshore drilling can be: even close up, the noise levels are surprisingly low). The 2,800 feet vertical borehole has been completed and two 1,000 feet laterals targeting the Great Row seam are underway. Testing should get underway in mid-August, with the rig replaced by IGas’s own production modules which promise to be even more low-key than the rig. If successful, the gas will be used to supply the university’s gas needs as Keele bids to become the first energy self-sufficient university in the UK.

Indeed, the university hopes to become a showcase for green energy and sustainable living. A major building project on the extensive estate, which in recent years has been transformed by the addition of a state-of-the-art medical centre and science park, is already underway, including two 2.5-3 MW wind turbines which should supply all the electricity needs on campus (and it is very likely the wind turbines will attract more planning heat and local opposition than the gas well).

Professor Styles is also hoping to get a geothermal project up-and-running, and plans to use temperature readings from the IGas/Nexen well to get a better understanding of the geothermal potential of the coals. “This area had some of the hottest mines in the area, the miners used to work naked in temperatures of 43-degrees,” he explains. “We would like to drill a geothermal borehole and then pipe the water with the gas for combined heat and power.” There are also plans for solar and biomass demonstrator projects to turn Keele into something of an environmental laboratory, says Styles, who is also a strong advocate of underground coal gasification, which can capture 80-90 per cent of the energy from coal as opposed to “a reasonably optimistic” 10 per cent using CBM.

This is beyond the interest of IGas but it does the AIM company no harm to be aligning itself with an institution that plans to attract energy innovators and showcase its credentials to industry, academia and government. It also helps the cause of CBM, which remains a fledgling and under-supported industry in the UK.

“With North Sea gas running out and the country becoming increasingly dependent on imports, such as shipments of Qatari LNG, energy security is the big issue,” says Styles, highlighting the UK’s parlous shortage of gas storage facilities compared to our counterparts in the EU. “Yet 30 per cent of the UK is underlain by coal, there’s a massive opportunity here for building domestic gas production.”

This is a big opportunity for IGas, for Keele and, should success breed success, potentially for the nation as it rethinks the energy potential of its still significant coal resources.

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