Sugar Camp gets more ’emergency’ time to inject mine wastewater underground

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency is taking comment until Feb. 1 on its notice of intent to issue an Underground Injection Control (UIC) well permit to Sugar Camp Energy and RGGS Land & Minerals Ltd. for the Sugar Camp underground coal mine.

The agency has also extended an emergency UIC well permit held by Sugar Camp until Dec. 31, 2016. In May 2014, the Illinois EPA issued an emergency UIC permit to allow the applicants to construct and eventually operate two UIC wells on a temporary basis in an effort to manage an unexpectedly large volume of groundwater infiltrating the mine, putting miners at risk. If discharged to surface waters, this wastewater would violate the state’s water quality standards for chloride and dissolved solids. The wells began injection of wastewater; one in August 2014, the other in January 2015. The emergency permit was originally to have expired May 20, 2015, but was initially extended to Dec. 31, 2015, and by this action, to Dec. 31, 2016.

“These extensions have been made to allow for the development of a non-emergency UIC permit which will authorize the long-term operation of these two wells, the construction of two additional wells to inject into the same geological formations and, upon approval of the new wells’ construction, to operate them,” said an agency public notice. “That draft permit is now available for public comment.

“Sugar Camp injects wastewaters between 7,500 and 12,900 feet underground into limestone and sandstone formations via the wells. These geological formations are overlain by a 160 foot thick confining layer of shale bedrock, minimizing the potential for injected fluids to migrate upward and into potable water aquifers. The existing groundwater in the injection formations contains high levels of dissolved solids and is not suitable for potable use.”

Said the Foresight Energy website about this operation: “Sugar Camp Energy’s mining complex, located in Franklin County, in southern Illinois, contains 1.3 billion tons of clean, recoverable coal reserves and is designed to support up to 4 separate longwall mines. We operate two longwall mines that share common surface infrastructure but maintain separate access points for mine personnel and equipment. We began operation of our first longwall mine, M Class #1 Mine, in the first quarter of 2012 and our second longwall mine, Viking Energy, at the end of the second quarter of 2014.”

The productive capacity with two longwall systems is 13.5 million tons per year. Coal production was 9.1 million tons in 2014.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.