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Mining Review 3/11: Coal Gas (1950)


Main image of Mining Review 3/11: Coal Gas (1950)
Mining Review 3th Year No.11: Derbyshire - Coal Gas
July 1950
35mm, black and white, 3 mins
DirectorTony Thompson
Production CompanyData Film Productions
SponsorNational Coal Board
Cameras Ron Bicker, Lionel Griffiths

An underground gasification experiment at Newman Spinney in Derbyshire.

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This Mining Review item looks at an experiment in underground coal gasification carried out at Newman Spinney in Derbyshire. Gasification was a means of deriving energy from coal seams that were impossible or uneconomical to reach by traditional methods.

The theory is that coal is converted into combustible gas at the coal face itself. This is achieved by drilling two boreholes from the surface. One supplies oxygen, water and steam, the other transmits the resulting gas to the surface. This gas can be used in a variety of ways, including industrial heating, combustion for power generation, or for the manufacture of hydrogen or synthetic natural gas.

Gasification was first developed in the Soviet Union in the 1930s, and the National Coal Board decided to conduct its own experiments at Newman Spinney in 1950, documented in this film. The commentator is vague about the results - "something seems to be happening underground" - but in fact the experiment was ultimately judged a success. However, the NCB subsequently abandoned their gasification plans for economic reasons.

However, gasification is still an ongoing concern, especially given that Britain still has plenty of coal reserves that are largely untapped thanks to the collapse of the industry. The Department of Trade and Industry's Energy Paper 67, commissioned and published in 1999 in the wake of extensive trials in Spain, set out a programme to assess the commercial viability of gasification, with the potential to export the technology to coal-rich but oil and gas-poor industrialised economies such as China and India. The system is also becoming increasingly attractive for its environmental friendliness, both in terms of the relatively clean nature of the end product and the minimal destructiveness of the extraction process.

Michael Brooke

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