From the Arkansas Statehouse...

A Fayetteville Shale for South Arkansas?

In Energy on 28 January 2009 at 6:10 pm

Remember the word lignite. If you’re a conservationist, it may cause you nightmares. If you’re a landowner in South Arkansas, it may make you a lot of money.

Lignite, a brown coal, may not ever have the impact on the state’s economy that some want it to. It may even prove to be an infeasible energy source. But in the Joint Energy Committee this afternoon, legislators and researchers described a potential gold rush in a swath of the state from Miller County to Ashley County. Ideas presented involved strip mining and the extraction of 8 million tons of the mineral annually. Proponents say that strip-mined territory can be totally restored to its previous appearance.

“We have an incomprehensible amount of lignite that can be mined,” said Corbet Lamkin, Chancellor of Southern Arkansas University, which has been conducting research on the issue for the state.

In a long presentation, Ed Ratchford of the Arkansas Geological Survey described how lignite can be used to produce natural gas and other fuels. He estimated that the lignite under Arkansas territory could be mined without depletion for 500 years.

Economic development officials and other interested parties are trying to find a way to fund further study of South Arkansas so as to have information about lignite ready to present to energy companies. Ratchford said he would ask the state for over $1 million to pay for research. A representative from the Arkansas Economic Development Commission said the agency has asked the governor’s office for $1.5 – $2 million for a study, including $1.25 million or so from the potential federal stimulus plan.

In 2007, the legislature created a program for the study of lignite. Periodic reports such as today’s are mandated in the act.

No formal legislation was presented to the committee. But the tenor of questioning suggested that members are entertaining the ideas discussed.

Rep. John Lowery of El Dorado commended the presenters for their foresight and said the state will be in a better position to profit from rising energy prices it it invests in lignite now.

  1. The area of South Ark that you speak is surrounded by natural gas. Why dig huge hole in the forest of Arkansas to get at something that has to be Reworked to provide an acceptable energy source. Fay Shale to the north and Haynesville play to the south. Lets convince the Federal Gov. to recognize Natural Gas as a major component of our Nation’s energy future before attacking the woodlands of South Ark. Thank you!

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