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CANADIAN MINING PERSPECTIVES: VIEWPOINT – West Hawk tests coal-to-gas option

WEST HAWK DEVELOPMENT of Vancouver has been testing samples from its coal deposits in the Northwest Territories to ...


WEST HAWK DEVELOPMENT of Vancouver has been testing samples from its coal deposits in the Northwest Territories to determine their suitability for gasification. Well, actually, the company contracted SASOL LURGI LABORATORIES to conduct the tests, and the results are positive.

West Hawk collected the samples from its Seagull Island and Tate Lake properties and sent them to South Africa where the tests were conducted. All samples contained coal suitable for gasification, and the coal-to-gas/liquid conversion efficiencies were “very high”, says the company. The Sasol Lurgi report recommends additional, commercial-scale testing.

The first advantage of coal gasification is in the transportation of the product. West Hawk’s Seagull Island and Tate Lake properties lie in the Mackenzie River Valley. The proposed Mackenzie Valley pipeline or the existing pipeline from Norman Wells would be ideal for moving a gas product to southern markets. The more expensive alternative would be to ship the solid coal by rail.

Another advantage of coal gasification is that it is cleaner than burning coal. Plus, ash is converted to an inert, glassy slag during gasification. The gas can be used to produce electricity, or to make gasoline or synthetic natural gas, chemicals or fertilizer. Compared with burning coal to produce electricity, coal gasification is far more efficient, which translates to reduced emissions, less greenhouse gas production and lower-cost power. (The Gasification Technologies Council has posted its extensive library of papers and presentations about the process at www.Gasification.org.)

If gasification is the treatment of choice, the coal still must be mined initially, and that is a job our industry does well. The next step for West Hawk (www.WestHawkDevelopment.com) is to begin delineation drilling, advance its feasibility study and test the markets. A resource number assembled in 1979 estimated there are nearly 2.0 billion tonnes of lignite to sub-bituminous coal in the Norman Wells and Seagull Island deposits.


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