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|Spontaneous combustion in underground coal mines has become a serious problem particularly in the caved area (gob). Recent statistic has shown that approximately 17% of total 87 underground coal mine fires in the United States are attributed to spontaneous combustion (De Rosa, 2004). Spontaneous combustion results from a self-heating process in exothermic conditions. The accumulated heat, if not removed, is conducive to the rapid increase of temperature and may result in mine fires or explosions. It is well accepted that the interaction between oxygen and coal substances is the main cause for spontaneous combustion, while other factors such as pyrite, moisture, and bacteria play a secondary role to the self-heating of coal. Therefore, only coal oxidation is considered in this study. Coal oxidation occurs as coal comes into contact with air. This process involves complex phenomena in terms of heat transfer, chemical surface absorption, and energy balance related to inherent properties of coal (Wang et al., 2003). For simulation purpose, overall reactions can be simplified as suggested by Mitchell (1990): C + O2 CO2 + heat [65°- 94°C] (1) CO2 + C 2CO + heat [100°- 150°C] (2) Stoichiometric reactions (1) and (2) show that 2.66 grams of oxygen are required to oxidize 1.0 gram of carbon. Once the temperature exceeds 100°C, the reaction has little chance to stop. The crucial step in reducing spontaneous combustion risk is locating the ignition point of spontaneous combustion (hot spot). This information is useful in the effort of developing a preventive method effectively. In this study, this was conducted based on the best gathered information: ventilation surveys conducted in an existing longwall mine located in the western US; the laboratory experiments performed on a physical gob model; and the CFD models to investigate the flow behavior in the gob, the oxidation of coal, and heat transfer phenomena. The hot spot location is determined as a function of oxygen concentration and gob temperature. The critical values are the following: 5% (by volume) for oxygen and 100°C for gob temperature. CHARACTERISTICS OF GOB MATERIAL AND MODELS Permeability Concept Permeability is one of the key parameters in any study dealing with porous medium. This is determined by particle size and the ratio of void volume to the total volume (porosity) of porous medium. This relationship is known as the Carman-Kozeny equation (Scheidegger, 1957) and is given mathematically as [ ] where k* = theoretical specific permeability, m2 dm = the mean particle size, m n = porosity However, permeability tests with various particle sizes were carried out at the University of Utah?s ventilation model (Figure 1) to verify this relationship. These tests indicated a necessity to modify this theoretical relationship. A factor of 0.898 was obtained to make up the different between theoretical permeability and the experimental one. The modified version of (3) is given by: [ ] This equation is used to determine permeability of the simulated mine gob throughout the study. [ ] Mine Gob Material The gob is represented by zones filled with material of given size distribution. For physical measurements and CFD simulations, the material used were crushed rock and coal. Due to compaction, three different characteristics of gob material were used in the model: unconsolidated, semiconsolidated, and consolidated. In the real condition, the largest coal-rock particles are more likely to be located in the area behind the shields. This material is freshly broken and unconsolidated. The size of these broken particles is based on a study carried out by analyzing images taken from the area behind the shields in three coal mines in the United States (Pappas and Mark, 1993). The results have shown that the mean size of materials behind the shields is about 1.22 m. The permeability associated with this size was then obtained from (4) and permeability tests. This was 4.68 x10-7 m2. For semiconsolidated and consolidated zones, due to the lack of experimental data, these were determined through CFD simulations. These simulations were designed by assigning a permeability of 3.15 x 10-8 m2 for consolidated zone and 7.98 x 10-9 m2 to the other zone. The airflow pattern in the gob assigned with given permeabilities was expected to follow the experimental distribution (Brunner, 1985). The mean particle sizes for the semi-consolidated and consolidated zones were 0.02 and 0.006 m, respectively; smaller than those of the unconsolidated zone. Figure 2 shows the 3D view of permeability changes in the gob.|