Minimising Greenhouse Emission from Coal by the Collection and Use of Coal Seam Methane

Zamel GI,
Organization: The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy
Pages: 6
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1989
The utilisation of fossil fuels, including coal (of which Australia is a large producer and exporter) is a significant contributor to the emission of greenhouse gases. Methane gas, formed during the coalification process, is present in coal seams to varying levels depending on the rank and depth of the deposit. This gas usually escapes to the atmosphere during mining operations without prior conversion to C02 or utilisation as fuel. The quantity of methane released can represent from less than one percent to more than five percent of the carbon content of the coal mined. Per unit of carbon, methane has a greenhouse impact many times that of C02. The emission of uncombusted methane to the atmosphere can therefore represent a greenhouse impact of similar porportions to that of the CO2 formed by combusting the mined coal. However, greenhouse emissions from coal can be minimised by collecting the coal seam methane and converting it to water vapour and the less damaging form, CO2. If such conversion is carried out while performing useful work, the methane can further reduce greenhouse emissions by displacing other fossil fuels. Technology has been developed to allow coal seam methane gas to be economically collected in a pure form, uncontaminated with air. This pure methane can be used to supplement natural gas supplies, to generate power or for the production of chemicals or substitute transport fuels. By collecting and utilising coal seam methane, the greenhouse impact from the mining and use of coal can be minimised, with significant reductions possible in the case of gassy deposits.
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