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Coal gasification hearing Wednesday in Wright

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 24, 2014 at 5:24 pm •  Published: March 24, 2014

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — A project that would produce gas by oxidizing an underground coal seam will be the subject of a state Department of Environmental Quality public hearing Wednesday in Wright that's been scheduled at the behest of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

An Australian company, Linc Energy, wants state and federal environmental regulators to reclassify 80 acres of the Fort Union Aquifer in order for the company's coal gasification project near Wright to move ahead.

Linc proposes to pump air underground to oxidize 1,000-2,000 tons of coal. The process would produce "syngas" — made up of several gases including methane, hydrogen and carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide — for use as fuel or as part of industrial processes.

The project would tap the 24-to-30-foot-thick Wyodak coal seam 1,100 feet underground to produce up to 1 million cubic feet of syngas daily.

In order for the project to happen, however, the aquifer underlying the project zone would need to be reclassified from Class III, suitable for livestock, to Class V, a lower grade suitable only for mining and commercial uses.

The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality supported the reclassification. Then in January, EPA officials told the state agency it needed to hold a public hearing and collect public comments on the proposal before the EPA would consider granting the change.

The hearing is set for 4-7 p.m. Wednesday at the public library in Wright.

Company officials didn't return messages Monday seeking comment, but a group that successfully appealed the state Environmental Quality Council to review the project last fall said it remains opposed to the aquifer classification.

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