Coal mining is a significant source of methane emissions. The methane is embedded in the coal layers. According to a 2012 US EPA study, approximately 8% of all anthropogenic methane emission world-wide stem from this sector. The methane is a large source of energy which is largely untapped. On the other hand it poses a significant threat to the safety of mining operations. Investments in coal mine methane abatement does associate investors with the most controversial fuel: coal.
Worldwide emissions from coal mining are expected to further increase in the next decades, given the rising energy demand around the world. There are different ways to capture methane and make it available for usage.
The mining of coal releases part of the methane that is embedded in the coal layers. There are different ways to capture that methane and make it available for usage or flaring. These are:
- Surface drainage boreholes to capture coal bed methane (CBM) or methane from open cast mines.
- Underground boreholes in the mine, surface goaf wells, underground boreholes, gas drainage galleries or other goaf gas capture techniques, including gas from sealed areas, to capture coal mine methane (CMM).
- Mine ventilation system to dilute and remove ventilation air methane (VAM).
- Surface drainage boreholes in the case of sealed abandoned mines or ventilation system in the case of ventilated mines to capture abandoned mine methane (AMM).
As an employee of SenterNovem, Shifting Paradigms supported the Dutch government with detailed due diligences on coal mine methane abatement projects in Ukraine. One of these counterparts would install 60MWe cogeneration equipment, solely fired with Coal Bed Methane. The decision whether or not to invest in these mines required balancing the short-term climate and safety benefits, with the reputational risk of investing in coal mines and a business ethics which is very different from what we’re used to in the Netherlands.