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Coal Mine Methane Developments in the United States and Globally

CMM Developments in the US and Globally

The term coal mine methane (CMM) refers to methane from surface or underground coal mines that is released to the atmosphere or captured in advance of, during, or following mining operations. The release of CMM from active and abandoned mining operations is a major source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Globally, CMM accounts for approximately eight percent of all anthropogenic methane emissions.

Most CMM projects use recovered methane from coal mine gas drainage systems, which include pre-mine degasification, in-mine horizontal boreholes, and post-mining gob gas recovery.  Currently, over 200 CMM projects developed in 14 countries are capturing 3 billion cubic meters per year (OECD/IEA, 2008); while the remaining methane liberated is vented to the atmosphere, representing the loss of a valuable energy resource.

There are three primary reasons for recovering coal mine methane.

  1. CMM recovery and use provides increased mine safety. Worldwide, there have been thousands of recorded fatalities from underground mine explosions in which methane was a contributing factor.  Methane drainage systems reduce the methane that must be removed by the mine’s ventilation system, ultimately reducing the potential for mine explosions.
  2. CMM recovery and use improves mine economics by reducing emissions into the mine’s workings and aids in preventing explosions and outbursts. Methane drainage effectively reduces mine down time and lowers ventilation costs, which are a coal mine’s largest use of power.  Recovered methane can be used either as fuel at the mine site or sold to other users, generating revenue for the mine or the project’s developer.
  3. CMM recovery and use provides benefits to the global and local environment.  Methane is a major greenhouse gas and is second in its global impact only to carbon dioxide (CO2).  It is 25 times more potent than CO2 and useable.