free html hit counter Peak Oil Debunked: 193. SUBMARINE COAL

Thursday, December 22, 2005


The previous item (#192) made me curious about coal under the ocean, so I did some searching. It's interesting that coal was originally called "sea-coal" and was linked with the sea:
It is usually assumed that the term 'sea-coal' reflects the ease with which coal may be gathered on the seashore in some places, giving a hint as to how coal in this island was first discovered and (appropriately) named. The Oxford English Dictionary says: "Possibly in early times the chief source of coal supply may have been the beds exposed by marine denudation on the coast of Northumberland and South Wales." The antiquary, Leland, visiting the north in 1769, used the word 'sea-coal' in a similar sense: "The vaynes of the se-coles be sometyme upon clives [cliffs] of the se, as round about Coket Island."

Sea-coal, as coal washed up by the sea, and recovered from the shore, is current still in local use, referring to fragments collected off the beach into sacks and wheeled away on a bicycle (traditionally) for local use.

Collecting Sea Coal

The process was noted in the 1930s by J.B.Priestley: "Along the coast road between Sunderland and Seaham Harbour, we came upon quite a number of men riding or wheeling bicycles loaded with two or three small sacks of coal. I heard afterwards that these men descend very steep and dangerous cliffs near Seaham Harbour and pick up coal from the shore. They were now going to Sunderland to sell the coal."Source
It turns out that undersea coal mining has a long history, and is widely practiced:
The known submarine areas from which coal is mined at the present time, are Chili, Japan, the East and West Coast of Northern England, under the Firth of Forth in Scotland, on Vancouver Island, in British Columbia on the West Coast and Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia on the East Coast of Canada.Source
China recently joined the club:
Chinanews, Aug. 16 - China's first try of exploiting a seabed coal mine concluded successfully in Shandong's Longkou on August 14. During the operation, mechanized top coal caving technology was adopted for the first time in seabed coal mining, filling the blank in the world undersea mining technologies.

Beizao Coal Mine, a branch of Shandong Longkou Mining Group Company, is the first company in China to exploit undersea coalfields. On June 18, prophase work started at the coalfield with a 4.4 meter thick coal seam and a reserve of 89.2 kilotons, 359.5 meters below the Bohai Sea.Source
These mines can extend quite a distance into the sea:
The workings in these mines extend from a minimum of 0.7 miles to a maximum of 2.2 miles from the shore.

It may be of interest to note that Dominion No. 4 Colliery, recently closed, had penetrated further seaward than any other colliery in the field, the main deeps having reached a distance of 3.6 miles from the shore. It is also of interest to note that the deepest submarine mine in Nova Scotia, or probably anywhere, was, prior to its closure, No. 2 Mine of the Inverness Coal & Railway Company, where nearly 3,000 feet of cover had been reached.Source
Apparently, the longest undersea tunnel ever dug is the Seikan Tunnel (53.85 km) connecting Honshu to Hokkaido in Japan (click to enlarge):

-- by JD


At Thursday, December 22, 2005 at 7:40:00 AM PST, Blogger al fin said...

Very nice posting, JD. People call these deposits "inaccessible", which is easy to say, like "inconceivable!", or "impossible!" All easy four and five syllable words to pronounce. A three year old could do it.

Why do humans push the bounds of technology, as they have done with deep sea oil rigs and geostationary communications satellites? Why do they push back the limits of what is impossible, inaccessible, or inconceivable? Because humans will certainly do the same with "inaccessible" offshore coal deposits.

And nuclear fusion and outer space resources as well.

At Thursday, December 22, 2005 at 8:33:00 AM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

in the case of the new field found by norway the word "inaccessible" implies "at this time". obviously we'll figure something out...

At Thursday, December 22, 2005 at 8:58:00 AM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Peak oil doom gave me little reason to go back to school to finish my electrical engineering degree....afterall who needs electrical engineers in a post apocylyptic world, or even some powered-down agrarian utopia?

So does Overpopulation increase the odds that humanity could survive something like an asteroid impact, or nuclear war?

At Thursday, December 22, 2005 at 1:30:00 PM PST, Blogger Roland said...

Well, I at least hope they're inaccessible for a couple of decades. We don't actually need that coal right now, and we may never need it; best to keep the CO2 down where it belongs ...

To Anonymous, haven't you been reading this site. The world is not powering down or blowing up. it's simply being forced to abandon its preferred transport fuel. What we will need the most is ingenuity, innovation and expertise ... so go get an electrical engineering degree, if that's what turns your lights on (pun not intended).

That said, if the idea of life in an ecovillage attracts you, then why not join one? There's nothing wrong with them

And yes, overpopulation increases the odds of surviving an asteroid or nuclear war, but since when are we worrying about asteroids or nuclear war? This is a site about Peak Oil .......

At Friday, December 23, 2005 at 4:58:00 AM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry, I have been lurking here and some of the "doom" sites, and I guess I should have clarified that I am not debating this site, I'm actually trying to get myself out of the "doomer" mindset....It's just so hard for me to understand why so many people of the "doomer" variety are obsessed with the idea of annhiliation (sp?). but I think It's possible that there is some fatalitic psychological component to such people as the types and the Peak Oil paradigm just fits their neccessity for oblivion currently.

In closing, I find this site a very welcome breathe of fresh air, and it has given me a less pesssimistic view on the world and humanity..


At Friday, December 23, 2005 at 10:27:00 AM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

so we're going to strip mine the oceans? or do you propose the old pick and bucket brigade? how about super-nifty, nuclear-powered, underseas giant aquatic, really-cool, monster-bucket diggers.

They could have, like, sleeping quarters, and really cool gamer-rooms where the cool guys and sexy girls in the their engineer suits could say smart things to each other like "luke, that peson-drive blaster on your waist could take down this coal seam in a wink." Then the scientist/mechanic heros would go outside and fight GIANT SQUID. cool

At Friday, December 23, 2005 at 10:30:00 AM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know what you doomers are talking about giant squids? These coal resevoirs are perfect for conversion using Fischer-Tropsch methods given the availability of h20 for the input. The great pressure under the oceean would serve as the energy input. This is a neat idea. golly.

At Friday, December 23, 2005 at 2:52:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Famous last words, popmonkey:

{in the case of the new field found by norway the word "inaccessible" implies "at this time". obviously we'll figure something}

At Friday, December 23, 2005 at 2:54:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, but if (even with a 100% efficient extraction machine) it takes more energy to lift the coal from the seabed to the surface than the coal contains, the coal is useless as a primary energy source.

At Friday, December 23, 2005 at 5:25:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't get these doomers? Haven't you noticed? coal floats! you could just pop them up to the surface where there would be people in boats scooping them up in nets just like the islanders used to do.

At Monday, December 26, 2005 at 1:13:00 AM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Coal would have to be buried very deep indeed to have a negative energy input/output.

Even if so, in this unlikely scenario I am about to pressent : it wouldnt matter.

Scenario: Oil is all gone, that's it over. Coal liquefaction is common, there's a nuclear breeder reactor every 10 feet.

This coal costs 10 units of electrical energy to pull up, and after all is said and done only produces 3 units of "transport fuel" energy. However, if this electrical energy is being supplied by a cheap, available source, it makes absolutely no difference.

But this is all unimportant, the coal is there, it exists, and we (by all accounts) will have decades of coal in already accessible deposits, giving us ample opportunity to figure out the best way to get it up to the surface.

I mean, seriously, how much money has been invested into coal extraction technology lately?

How much will be if, after oil peaks, coal is forced to increase at the same rate oil decreases??


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