The Arctic Energy Office
Fossil Energy - Alaska Coal
AEO sponsors research that supports the economic, environmentally sound development of Alaska’s massive coal resources.
Alaska’s identified coal resource is an estimated 120-140 billion metric tons, roughly half of the U.S. total. Major untapped coal deposits exist on the North Slope, in the Cook Inlet region, and to a lesser degree in discrete areas throughout central Alaska.
While Alaskan coals generally have a relatively low sulfur content and a high moisture content—desirable environmental values—their overall quality falls below that of competing coals. Considering that fact together with the high operating costs and lack of transportation infrastructure in the State, Alaskan coal has not been economic to develop—with the exception of Alaska’s only operating coal mine, the Usibelli Mine near Healy.
An AEO-sponsored study - Beluga Coal Gasification Feasibility Study - Phase I Final Report (July 2006) [PDF-4MB] - summarizes the investigation of an IGCC system for a potential industrial setting on the Cook Inlet, in Nikiski, Alaska. Faced with an increase in natural gas price and a decrease in supply, local industry is investigating alternatives to natural gas as a feed stock for their process plants. This study evaluated a gasification plant that would supply syn-gas to meet the chemical needs of a local application and would also co-produce power to meet on-site demand, and possibly other by-products for local use. The results of the study verified that conversion of a plant from natural gas to syn-gas is technically and economically feasible.
Another study sponsored by AEO - Alaska Coal Gasification Feasibility Studies - Healy Coal-to-Liquids Plant (July 2007) [PDF-3.6MB]
- evaluates the feasibility of building a relatively small coal-to-liquids plant in central Alaska to provide a clean diesel product to Alaska’s refineries. The study concludes that the establishment of a 14,640 barrel per day F-T plant, using 4 million tons per year of coal, could be economic provided the price per barrel of the F-T product is at least $64 per barrel
Agrium Kenai Nitrogen Operations Plant - Nikiski, Alaska
The Agrium fertilizer plant has been experiencing shortages of natural gas for
feedstock and winter shutdowns have occurred. A study, sponsored by the AEO, focused on evaluating
the feasibility of the gasification of Beluga coal, shipped from the Chuitna Mine
located across the Cook Inlet, to produce synthetic gas to be used by Agrium.
The coal gasification facility would be located at the Agrium site.