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XJTU team helps Shaanxi transform coalfield into oilfield

March 02, 2024
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Academic Qiu Aici.


The world's first barrel of underground in-situ pyrolysis coal tar.

A project jointly carried out by Shaanxi Coal Geology Group and an academician team led by Professor Qiu Aici from Xi'an Jiaotong University (XJTU) saw the extraction of the world's first barrel of underground in-situ pyrolysis coal tar on Oct 9, 2023. It was approved by a group of experts on Jan 14, 2024.

Tar-rich coal refers to coal with a tar yield greater than 7 percent, with the tar-rich coal reserves in the northern Shaanxi region exceeding over 150 billion metric tons. The aim of the project is to achieve in-situ pyrolysis coal tar extraction from coal seams at a depth of over 100 meters underground without mining.

The project team had no prior experience to draw upon, as such a feat had never been achieved before. After the establishment of the project in 2021, the project team cooperated with Qiu's team to set up a research institute for the extraction of in-situ coal tar from tar-rich coal.

After more than three years of joint efforts, the project team has successfully transitioned innovative technologies from theoretical development and laboratory simulation to pilot tests in real-world scenarios.

The unprecedented success of the project has not only paved a new path for low-carbon and green coal mining in Shaanxi, but also opened up more options for ensuring national energy security.

Furthermore, most of these tar-rich coals were previously exported as thermal coal for combustion, resulting in a short industrial chain and low added value. The success of this project has also boosted the tar recovery rate of tar-rich coal, greatly improving its development and utilization.

So far, the project has seen the extraction of 800 liters of coal tar and 10,000 cubic meters of pyrolysis gas, with 10 authorized invention patents and eight utility model patents.