U.S. to Test New Coal Mine Methane Venting Technology - System Can Turn Problem into Asset
A demonstration project begun this week at an abandoned West Virginia coal mine will showcase a technology that can convert methane, a greenhouse gas, into a source of clean energy. EPA, the Department of Energy (DOE), and industry have partnered to support this first U.S. trial of the technology.
“This project shows how we can work through public-private partnerships to develop innovative, climate-friendly technologies,” said Bill Wehrum, acting assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation. “By capturing methane from coal mines, we can promote clean energy while reducing greenhouse gases.”
Coal mines are a significant source of methane, which is 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere. Ventilation shafts from underground coal mines are the source of more than 50 percent of all methane emissions from the coal mining industry worldwide. In 2000, total global ventilation shafts produced an estimated 16.6 billion cubic meters of methane.
Pittsburgh-based CONSOL Energy is hosting the demonstration at the Windsor Mine Portal in West Liberty, W.Va., near Wheeling. Sequa Corporation’s MEGTEC Systems of DePere, Wisc., has provided the technology for the demonstration, a thermal oxidation system that destroys methane in ventilation air by heating the gas to over 1800 degrees fahrenheit and converting it to carbon dioxide and water. The heat produced in this process can then be used directly in mining operations such as coal drying, or it can be used to generate electricity. Although this project represents the first demonstration of this technology on U.S. soil, it has been successfully operated at one pilot-scale site in Great Britain, as well as at two mines in Australia, one a future commercial-scale operation.
EPA, through its Coalbed Methane Outreach Program (CMOP), is contributing $500,000 to the joint project, and DOE is providing more than $1.1 million. CONSOL and MEGTEC are together providing a total of approximately $400,000 in funding and resources, as well as technical support. In 2005, CONSOL Energy recovered and used more than seven billion cubic feet of methane from its U.S. coal mines using conventional technologies.
EPA’s CMOP is a voluntary program whose mission is to promote the profitable recovery and use of coal mine methane. By working cooperatively with coal companies and related industries, CMOP helps to identify and implement methods to capture and use coal mine methane instead of emitting it to the atmosphere.
CMOP also supports the international Methane to Markets Partnership, a public-private partnership that unites 20 partner countries and a growing project network of more than 500 public and private sector organizations in efforts to reduce methane emissions while delivering clean energy to markets around the world.
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