Sequentially coupled flow-geomechanical modeling of underground coal gasification for a three-dimensional problem

  • Hossein Akbarzadeh
  • Richard J. Chalaturnyk
Original Article


Underground coal gasification (UCG) has been identified as an environmentally friendly technique for gasification of deep un-mineable coal seams in situ. This technology has the potential to be a clean and promising energy provider from coal seams with minimal greenhouse gas emission. The UCG eliminates the presence of coal miners underground hence, it is believed to be a much safer technique compared to the deep coal mining method. The UCG includes drilling injection and production wells into the coal seam, igniting coal, and injecting oxygen-based mix to facilitate coal gasification. Produced syngas is extracted from the production well. Evolution of a cavity created from the gasification process along with high temperature as well as change in pore fluid pressure causes mechanical changes to the coal and surrounding formations. Therefore, simulation of the gasification process alone is not sufficient to represent this complex thermal-hydro-chemical–mechanical process. Instead, a coupled flow and geomechanical modeling can help better represent the process by allowing simultaneous observation of the syngas production, advancement of the gasification chamber, and the cavity growth. Adaptation of such a coupled simulation would aid in optimization of the UCG process while helping controlling and mitigating the environmental risks caused by geomechanical failure and syngas loss to the groundwater. This paper presents results of a sequentially coupled flow-geomechanical simulation of a three-dimensional (3D) UCG example using the numerical methodology devised in this study. The 3D model includes caprock on top, coal seam in the middle, and another layer of rock underneath. Gasification modeling was conducted in the Computer Modelling Group Ltd. (CMG)’s Steam, Thermal, and Advanced processes Reservoir Simulator (STARS). Temperature and fluid pressure of each grid block as well as the cavity geometry, at the timestep level, were passed from the STARS to the geomechanical simulator i.e. the Fast Lagrangian Analysis of Continua in 3 Dimensions (FLAC3D) computer program (from the Itasca Consulting Group Inc.). Key features of the UCG process which were investigated herein include syngas flow rate, cavity growth, temperature and pressure profiles, porosity and permeability changes, and stress and deformation in coal and rock layers. It was observed that the coal matrix deformed towards the cavity, displacement and additional stress happened, and some blocks in the coal and rock layers mechanically failed.


Underground coal gasification (UCG) Pyrolysis Gasification Cavity Geomechanics Sequentially coupled modeling Reservoir 



The authors would like to thank The Canadian Centre for Clean Coal/Carbon and Mineral Processing Technologies (C5MPT) for providing financial support for this research. Also contribution by Dr. Ranjender Gupta’s research group at the University of Alberta is highly appreciated.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Civil and Environmental Eng.University of AlbertaEdmontonCanada

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