Let’s talk about coal gases

Coal gases are one of the most attractive energy sources in the world. Massively exploited during the 19th and the 20th century with the industrial revolution, coal gas is also known as town gas or manufactured gas because of its capacity and its use for lighting towns. Its use has been fundamental for the evolution of electricity before being dethroned by oil.

Coal gas is made by the destructive distillation of coal and contains a variety of calorific gases like hydrogen, carbon, monoxide, methane, but also non calorific gases such as carbon dioxide and nitrogen.

The use of coal gas was determinant during the industrial revolution. In fact, by its properties, it contributed to the development of household and public lighting, cooking, heating and especially in the urbanization of big cities like London, New York, etc.

Its exploitation has been slow down with the rising of natural gas and later with the discovery of oil. Today, we can notice a resurgence of interest for this activity especially in United States of America, in Europe and in China. With the depletion of energy resources, powerful states are looking for processes to replace oil, natural gas and other ending energy resources.

In France, The Minister of the economic and industrial recovery Arnaud Montebourg has underlined the importance of energy mix in a country. In fact, it has been showed that France has important coal gas reserves on his territory and if they were properly exploited, they can be a solution to improve this energy mix.  According to the minister, coal gas exploitation won’t generate any controversy like shale gas because no hydraulic fracturing is needed. Today, coal gas is the only non conventional gas authorized to exploitation in France.

Currently, the region of Lorraine is considered in France as the new Eldorado of coal gas. Recently, two exclusive licenses to prospect for coal gas have been issued to an Australian enterprise European Gas Limited.

Of course, this decision generated a controversy concerning the inconvenient of coal gas. Its detractors make know that this decision is contrary to the environmental principles including. They emphasize that coal gas is a great polluter of environment by his high rate of greenhouse gas emissions. Actually, coal gas contains carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide. It is also rich in hydrogen sulfide, a toxic gas that can be dangerous for close habitations.

More controversial is the high rate of suicides intervened in the 20th century and which included the lighting gas. A study of the French National Geological Council showed that coal gas exploitation can be dangerous for the ground water. This report is mentioned by coal gas opponents to ask the prohibition of the exploitation of that resource. October 31th 2013, the NGO France nature Environnement filed a legal action against the licenses grant in Lorraine : a thorn in the side of the government while the ecologists and the socialists do not agree with the question…

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