What now for Coal? The Reign of King Coal 2010 - 2050

Ironically, given the mass pit closures in the J31 area of the early 1990s, there could be a renaisance in coal mining in the 21st. See the book SUSTAINABLE FOSSIL FUELS, The Unusual Suspect in the Quest for Clean and Enduring Energy, by Mark Jaccard. Re-opening the local pits would be difficult though as they were abandoned rather than mothballed, so their galleries will be flooded with water and methane, and unsafe from roof collapses, heavy equipment was often abandoned at the last face cut, etc.

But, the technology now exists to burn coal in situ underground without needing a coal mine. So as there's certainly lots of coal still underground, then maybe one day we will see drilling rigs replacing the pit head winding gear? Especially when 'Peak Oil' is reached; see 'Green Issues'.

Note that coal is still used extensively worldwide for electricity generation and steel manufacture. Queensland in Australia is the worlds biggest exporterof it opencast coal. In the UK we use about 60m tonnes each year, but only produce about 20m tonnes. The rest we have to pay $100-$200 a tonne for in 2010 prices.Coal generates about a third of the UKs electricity.

But, the technology now exists to burn coal cleanly, and to bury the greenhouse gas CO2 deep underground in exhausted gas and oil wells (sequestration). Pumping CO2 into the wells can also squeeze out the last drops of oil from them.

The Hatfield colliery in South Yorkshire was to restart operations, thanks to a UK entrepreneur (Richard Budge) and his Russian backers. The Guardian newspaper seems to think that it may auger a takeover of the UK coal industry by Russian investors (UK Coal braced for Russian bid after £1bn deal with ex-chief, March 2006.

On 10 Dec 2010 the Daily Telegraph reported "Hatfield Colliery owner Powerfuel enters administration The owner of Hatfield Colliery has gone into administration after failing to raise £635m needed to build Britain's first clean coal plant and £30m to upgrade the mine.
Powerfuel appointed KPMG as its administrator, hoping that it can find a buyer to safeguard 380 jobs at the mine and clean coal projects - both of which are currently still operating. "
So while the mine is still producing, it exists in an atmosphere of uncertainty.