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Gas from Coal Symposium, 27 March 2001, Brisbane

COAL SEAM GAS RESERVOIR CHARACTERISATION

Abouna Saghafi
CSIRO Energy Technology, PO Box 136, North Ryde, NSW 1670
Email: a.saghafi@det.csiro.au, Tel: 02 9490 8670

Introduction
New techniques to characterise coal seams for their reservoir properties have been developing in
Australia over the last two decades. The traditional reason for measuring these properties was mine
safety and the data were used to assist in designing underground coal mine ventilation and gas
drainage systems. The main parameters measured at that time were gas content and the rate of gas
desorption. With further development of measurement techniques and better understanding of the
fundamentals of gas flow in coal, mathematical models were developed. These models required
knowledge of many other coal properties, which were not used before. Properties such as sorptive
capacity, permeability and diffusion coefficient of coal seams were required to simulate the flow of
gas in coal. With the interest in recovery of coal seam gas as a resource in late 80s and early 90s, the
characterisation of coal for its reservoir properties became more of interest to the coal seam gas
industry. Measurement of in-situ permeability started to develop rapidly, borecore samples were
routinely used for determination of gas sorption isotherm, gas content and, in some instances, porosity;
the properties which characterise the flow of gas in coal. Recently, climate change concerns over
fugitive emissions of mine gas has led to attention to gas desorption from low gas content coal at
shallow depth. Properties such as residual gas content and coefficient of diffusion are important for the
accurate emission inventories.

Coal Gas Reservoir Properties


In order to characterise the coal seam from viewpoint of a gas reservoir and the gas flow, the
knowledge of a number of physical parameters is vital. These parameters believed to have a primary
influence on the ease and the continuity of gas drainage from coal seams are:

Gas storage properties


• gas content
• sorption isotherm
• porosity

Gas flow properties:


• diffusivity
• permeability

These properties can be estimated from other properties of coal, albeit mostly qualitatively. For
instance maceral composition has been correlated to the flow properties of coal. In fact most of the
micro-fissures lie in vitrinite bands causing these bands to be more permeable to gas movement.

Gas Storage Properties of Coal


Coal is a porous medium and is in the family of reservoir rocks, however it differs remarkably from
the conventional reservoirs in that the volume of gas, which it can store, is far beyond its pore volume
capacity. In fact the gas stored in coal is mainly adsorbed onto the pores large internal surface. Due to
the very small volume of an individual micropore, typically 5 to 10 x10-10 m in diameter, the pore
surface in coal can be very large. For some coals the internal surface may reach several hundreds m2
per gram of solid, thus making available large amount of surface for adsorbing gas.
For a given coal, the quantity of gas adsorbed is a function of the gas pressure within the pore volume,
and total volume adsorbed is limited by the available free pore surface. The relation between the
volume of adsorbed gas and pressure at a given temperature is called the adsorption isotherm and is a
fundamental reservoir property of coal. The adsorption isotherm is measured in the laboratory.

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Gas from Coal Symposium, 27 March 2001, Brisbane

If the in-situ seam gas pressure is suddenly changed to a smaller pressure, gas will be released from
the coal until a new equilibrium state between the new pressure and adsorbed gas is reached. The time
required to reach the new equilibrium state depends on the flow properties of coal. If the gas pressure
is reduced to zero absolute, then all the stored gas will be released.
For general modelling purposes, the total volume of gas in coal can be divided into three components,
namely:
1. free gas  compressed in the interconnected pores and behaving according to
the normal gas laws, the amount of which can be calculated if the porosity and
pressure is known and is small compared to total gas contained in the coal,
2. adsorbed gas  held by surface attraction forces on the internal surfaces of
pores, as the pore surface area is very large ( ~50 t0 ~300 m2/g of coal) this
gas contributes the most to coal seam gas, and
3. absorbed gas  contained in closed pores or deeply in the solid matter, this gas
can only be released by heating or chemical treatment of coal and its
measurement is not required for the present assessment purpose.

The adsorbed gas constitutes about 90% of the total gas content of the coal and its amount increases
with free gas pressure. The measured gas content of coal which is measured in laboratory constitute
part of the component (2) of the above.
Gas content
Gas content of coal is the most important parameter needed for the evaluation of the extent of the gas
reservoir. Three are two methods for the direct determination of gas content. The first, which used to
be the main method employed in Australia until about 10 years ago, is based on the slow, natural
desorption of gas from coal. The coal sample, which is a core, or the lump samples from coal face, is
sealed in a canister and gas evolved from coal over time is collected in an inverted measuring cylinder
by water displacement in the cylinder over a water tray. This method has the inconvenience of taking
weeks or months to complete. Also when the seam gas is a mixed gas containing carbon dioxide,
significant errors may arise due to dissolution of CO2 in the water even when acidified to minimise
carbonate formation.
The second method relies on finely crushing the coal to speed up the gas desorption rate. Using this
method, the seam gas content can be determined in a space of 2 to 3 hours, as against many weeks for
the slow desorption procedure. The method, first developed and applied in Western Europe [Bertard et
al., 1970] was tried in Australia initially in research projects around 1990 and then extended into
commercial projects [Williams et al., 1992]. More recently, it is presented as the method of choice for
gas content testing by the Australian Standards [Standards Australia, 1999].
The significant advantages of the fast desorption method include:
• Very fast evaluation of the total gas content of the coal at a particular test site in the mine,
essential for mining authorisation from the Mining Inspectorate and for gas pre-drainage purposes.
• Significant reduction in the chances of gas leakage, loss of any CO2 and oxidation of the coal
during the measurement procedure. The latter gives rise to abnormally high levels of nitrogen in
the evolved seam gas.
• Quick turnaround in freeing up the available field and laboratory equipment which can then be
reused for other tests.
• Reduction in laboratory cost because of shorter time for monitoring, less frequent gas volume and
composition measurements and better resources utilisation.

Gas content is defined as the volume of gas, which is stored in the coal. The gas volume that can be
measured is called the measured gas content, Qm (Standards Australia, 1999) where as the total gas
which is stored in the coal is the total gas content, Qt. Measured gas content can reach the total gas
content of coal if the partial pressure of gas in the measuring vessel approaches zero (Figure 1).
There are three components to the measured gas content value (Qm):

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Gas from Coal Symposium, 27 March 2001, Brisbane

The lost gas during drilling (Q1). This is estimated by measuring the gas desorbed for a period of 20 to
30 minutes after the borecore is retrieved from borehole and a sample of the core sealed in a canister.
The desorption curve is extrapolated back and the value of Q1 is estimated.
The gas desorbed during the transport of the coal sample prior to crushing (Q2). The elapsed time
before crushing may be to a day or so.
The volume of gas desorbed during crushing (Q3 ). Gas is released at a much faster rate when the coal
is crushed to pulverised size (< 200 µm). The measurement may take up to a couple of hours
depending on the nature of the equipment used, the hardness of the coal and the rate of desorption.
The measured gas is the sum of the three components of gas desorbed.

Qm = Q1 + Q2 + Q3

Adsorption Isotherm

15

Gas adsorbed (m /t)


12

3
9
Qd
6
Qm
Crusher Seam
3 Pressure
Pressure

0
P
0 100 200 300 400 500 600 700 800 900 1000
Absolute gas pressure (kPa)

Figure 1 – Measured gas content (Qm) based on the storage properties of coal

The gas content should be measured (or normalised to) at NTP conditions (20°C, 101.325 kPa)
according to Australian Standards for Australian seam gas laboratory.
Gas may continue to desorb for up to 24 h from the crushed coal if it is placed in an environment with
lower gas partial pressure. The volume of gas desorbed after crushing is called Q'3 and may be added
to Qm to obtain the total measurable gas content value, Qt. The value of Q'3 can be as high as 10% of
the Q2 + Q3 value.
In Figure 2, the CSIRO laboratory facilities for fast desorption gas content testing are illustrated whilst
Figure 3 shows the CSIRO mobile gas testing laboratory with a fast desorption crusher and 3 sizes of
coal canisters. The mobile facility is used to measure the gas content and gas composition on mine
sites thereby almost eliminating the time required transporting the coal canister to the laboratory and
the associated risk of gas leakage during the transport. It also speeds up the turnover of the sampling
canisters when these are limited in numbers.
In the assessing gas emission from shallow coal seams or whenever the gas content is low, it is
necessary to determine the residual gas content of coal,. If, for example, the crushed coal is rapidly
flushed with nitrogen and then monitored for gas release one can readily observe further emissions.
Figure 4 shows the extent of Q'3 as a function of Q2+Q3 (which, if Q1) is small approximates to Qm.
These data were obtained by rapidly taking about 10% of the crushed coal and sealing in another
container of size such that there was a high void space. After a day or two after the completion of the
crushing the extra gas released was measured. It can be seen from Figure 4, that these coal samples
exhibited Q’3 values of up to 0.9 m3/t. Almost 95% of samples had residual content of up to 0.8 m3/t.

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Gas from Coal Symposium, 27 March 2001, Brisbane

Figure 2 – Gas content testing using quick crush method.


200 to 300 g of coal is placed in the smaller container and pulverised to 100% –200 µm and gas
released is measured.

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Gas from Coal Symposium, 27 March 2001, Brisbane

Figure 3. CSIRO mobile gas testing laboratory

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Gas from Coal Symposium, 27 March 2001, Brisbane

2.0
1.8
G as releas ed after cru shing (m /t)
3

1.6
1.4
1.2
3
1.0 Q ' 3 = 0 .85 m /t
0.8
0.6
0.4
0.2
0.0
0 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16 18 20
3
G as releas ed be fo re and d uring cru shing , Q 2+Q 3 ( m /t)

Figure 4 – Gas released from pulverised coal after the completion of the crushing

The adsorption isotherm


The relation between the quantity of gas adsorbed and free gas pressure to which the material is
exposed is called an adsorption isotherm. Results from such measurements quantify the storage
capacities of a given coal at various gas pressures and temperatures.
Measurement of the adsorption isotherm can be carried out in the laboratory using either gravimetric
or volumetric methods. The gravimetric method measures the increase of coal sample weight during
gas adsorption. The volumetric method estimates the volume of gas adsorbed into the coal based on
the measurement of volume and pressure of gas in the adsorption container.
Various quantity and size of coal may be used to determine the adsorption isotherms. As the diffusion
of gas into coal depends on grain sizes, it is nearly impossibly to measure the adsorption of gas to a
lump sample of coal at reasonable time (less than a week). The coal is therefore crushed to an standard
size (70% < 90 µm and 100% < 250 µm) and then is exposed to gas at various pressures for a given
temperature. For this range of grain sizes up to 2 days may be required to complete the sorption for a
given gas pressure, though overnight is often sufficient. Generally, the amount of gas adsorbed
increases less than linearly as a function of pressure approaching a limiting value at pressures > 50 or
100 bar. This corresponds to the assumption of a mono-layer gas adsorption mechanism, modelled by
the Langmuir hyperbolic equation:

a. p
c= (1)
p+b

In above equation, C is the gas volume adsorbed (m3/t), P is the gas pressure (kPa), ‘a’ and ‘b’ are
coefficients, whose values are determined experimentally. Coefficient ‘a’ represents the maximum
gas capacity of the coal when p Æ ∞ and is sometimes called the Langmuir volume parameter.
Coefficient ‘b’ is called Langmuir pressure parameter and represents the gas pressure at which coal
adsorbs a volume of gas equal to half of its maximum capacity, i.e. when P = b ⇒ C = a/2. The
parameter ‘b’ is related to the slope of the isotherm curve at low gas pressures with smaller ‘b’
corresponding to steeper curve.
The isotherm equation can be written both in terms of gauge or absolute pressures. When the equation
is written in terms of gauge pressure, the value of C represents the desorbable gas content, Qm' for that

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Gas from Coal Symposium, 27 March 2001, Brisbane

pressure. Equally, when the equation is written in terms of absolute pressure, the value of C represents
the total gas content, Qt, for that pressure.
The ‘a’ and ‘b’ parameters are generally calculated in terms of gauge pressure (ag, bg). In order to
convert them in terms of absolute pressure (aabs, babs), the following relationships are used:

aabs = ag [1 + 101.3/( bg - 101.3)] (2)


babs = bg - 101.3

The two adjustable constants in this equation, aabs and babs, are interpreted as the maximum adsorptive
capacity and the pressure at which adsorption equivalent to 0.5 aabs is achieved, respectively.
Based on the above methodology adsorption isotherms of coal samples from various locations in
Bowen Basin were undertaken (Figure 5). The coal samples were saturated with gas at 31°C. No
correction for ash was made in the results.

25

20
Methane adsorbed (m /t)
3

15

10

Bow en2

Bow en3
5
Bow en4

0
0 1000 2000 3000 4000 5000 6000
Absolute gas pressure (kPa)

Figure 5 – Methane adsorption isotherms, Bowen Basin

The capacity of gas storage of coal reduces with seam temperature. In coalfields with high geothermal
gradient, the adsorption isotherm should be measured at the coal seam depth temperature. In Figure 6,
the effect of changing temperature from 24 to 42°C on methane adsorption of a coal from Bowen
Basin is shown.

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Gas from Coal Symposium, 27 March 2001, Brisbane

25
Total methane adsorbed (m /t)

20
3

15

10
24°C
33°C

5 42°C

0
0 1000 2000 3000 4000 5000 6000
Absolute gas pressure (kPa)

Figure 6 – Example of temperature effect on methane sorption capacity of coal

Gas Flow Properties of Coal


A high gas content coal does not imply a high gas flow. The ability of coal to transmit the fluid is
measured by properties such as permeability and diffusivity of coal. Coal is often presented as a dual
porosity medium. The idea is that cleats and fractures in coal seams act as the main gas transport
pathway (primary porosity) where gas flows freely under the pressure gradient force. Whereas in the
smaller pores (secondary porosity) the gas is desorbed from the surface of the internal pores and very
slowly is transported into cleats and other fractures under the force of the gradient of concentration.
Gas diffusion in coal
In the very small pores, the transport of gas takes place as a result of diffusion; in fact the bulk or free
flow could not take place, as the drag force could be enormous in the pathways of the size of
micropores. The diffusivity property is represented by the coefficient of diffusion. The flux of gas
transported in this mode follows the Fick’s law of diffusion. According to this law the diffusive flux,
ψ2, of a gas in a porous medium in a given direction is:
∂c
ψ 2 = −D (3)
∂x

where x is the direction of flow, c is gas concentration (content) and D is the coefficient of diffusion
(diffusivity).
Contrary to the permeability, the diffusion coefficient can be measured in the laboratory. In fact the
characteristic length for the application of diffusion law is quiet small (~ mm) and therefore amenable
to the laboratory measurement without too much concern over the scale factor.
In the laboratory the diffusion coefficient is determined by measuring the transport of gas through thin
coal discs prepared from coal samples. Each disc is 2 to 3 mm thick with diameters of the order of 3
to 4 mm. The coal disc is sealed to form a partition in a tube, one side being exposed to the gas for

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Gas from Coal Symposium, 27 March 2001, Brisbane

which the diffusion coefficient is to be measured, and the other to N2 at same pressure. On the N2 side,
there is a ballast chamber of a few cm3 volume and the accumulation of the gas in the chamber is
measured as a function of time. Gas composition is measured using gas chromatography.
Accumulation is generally measured over 48 hours. This allows the diffusion to penetrate through the
thickness of the disk.
The coal disk for the measurement of diffusion is quite small (Figure 7) and needs to be meticulously
prepared so that no fracture is induced in the coal during preparation.

Figure 7 – Coal disk prepared for the measurement of coefficient of diffusion ( ~2-3 mm
thickness, 3-4 mm diameter)

As an example of the results of measurement, in Figure 8, the curve of increase in concentration of


CH4 against time in measuring chamber is shown. The analysis of this curve yields a diffusion
coefficient of:
-9 2
D = 6.2 x 10 m /s

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Gas from Coal Symposium, 27 March 2001, Brisbane

80
70
CH4 concentration (%)

60
C(t)= 1.59 t
50
40
30
20
10
0
0 10 20 30 40 50
Time (hour)

Figure 8 − Measurement of gas diffusivity in coal


Permeability of coal to gas
Coal permeability depends not only on the volume of pores and fissures (porosity) but also depends on
the nature of their inter-connections. Any parameter that influences the geometry of pores and fissures
will influence the permeability. Strata movement and relaxation due to mining will change
permeability. Coal swells with gas adsorption and shrinks with gas desorption so that during gases
drainage the volume of pore changes and causes variations in permeability. The permeability variation
due to strata relaxation and gas drainage can be of several orders of magnitude and an initial
permeability of a few micro-darcys (1 darcy = 9.87 x 10-7 m2) can end up as a few milli-darcys.
The flux of gas (ψ1, volume of gas traversed per second per unit area perpendicular to the direction of
flow) is:

k ∂p
ψ1 = − (4)
η ∂x

Where x is the direction of flow, p is gas pressure, η is dynamic viscosity of gas and k is the
permeability.
In coal seams both gas and water are present and though the calculation of gas and water flows can be
done using different Darcy’s equations, the permeability of coal for each phase would be smaller than
if there was a single-phase flow. The coefficient k in above equation for a single gas is equal to the
geometric or absolute permeability of coal, which is dependent only on the structure, and the pattern of
fractures (geometry dependent). For multiple phase flow, an effective permeability is considered
which is smaller than absolute permeability and is inversely proportional to the degree of pore
saturation by the other phase. Therefore to effectively recover gas, water must be drained first. Also
dewatering reduces the water head and static pressure, thereby enhancing the rate of gas discharge to
the borehole.
Although the coal matrix permeability can be measured in the laboratory, the results do not reflect an
accurate picture of the in-situ permeability. This is partly due to change in structure of the coal sample
during coring and in part because, in some cases, the permeability to gas flow is mainly dominated by
the network of macro-fissures which are not present in a small sample. This drawback of laboratory
measurements of seam permeability has encouraged further research into the determination of in-situ
seam permeability. As the permeability of coal is very much dependent on scale, practically, it can not
be measured in laboratory. In situ measurements of permeability provides the only reliable
permeability estimates.
Various methods of in-situ permeability have been developed for underground mining and from
surface borehole prior to mining.

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Gas from Coal Symposium, 27 March 2001, Brisbane

A technique for in-situ measurement of permeability in underground mines, developed and used by
Saghafi et al. (1989), consisted of sealing in-seam boreholes drilled from underground workings into a
virgin coal seam and monitoring the gas pressure rise in the boreholes. The rate of pressure build-up
and the time required to reach the asymptotic value of gas pressure yields a measure of the in-situ coal
permeability. The time interval necessary to attain this asymptote may vary from a few hours for a
highly permeable coal seam to a few days for a low permeability coal. The maximum gas pressure is
also a function of virgin gas content and quality of seal. In a gassy coal seam a pressure of up to
30,000 kPa can readily be reached.
This method was used to evaluate the permeability of some Sydney and Bowen Basins seams. An
actual test configuration consisted of two parallel boreholes, 55 to 60 mm diameter, drilled into a
newly exposed coal rib at 20 m spacing to a depth of 60 to 70 m. An inflatable double packer was then
installed in each hole at a depth of 50 to 60 m, and inflated to a pressure of 30 to 50 atm. The two
boreholes were also sealed at the outlets. The gas pressures in the front and inter-packer chambers
were regularly monitored in each borehole. To maintain the inflation pressure, compressed nitrogen
bottles were connected to the packers. When the gas pressure in the sealed borehole reached its
asymptotic value, a third borehole was drilled mid-way between the two boreholes to a depth of 70 to
80 m. A single packer was then installed inside the borehole at a depth of 40 m and inflated. The flow
rate of gas emitted from between the end of the borehole and the end of the packer was then regularly
monitored. The gas pressure decayed in the sealed boreholes due to gas drainage from the middle
borehole. During drilling coal samples were also taken to determine the gas content and the sorption
isotherm of the coal. The in-situ pressure build-up and gas flow curves together with laboratory
measured gas content and sorption isotherm were fed to a mathematical model which outputs the in-
situ permeability of coal seams. Examples of pressure-time curves for sealed in-seam boreholes in the
Sydney Basin and Bowen Basins seams are shown in Figures. 9 and 10. The measured in-situ
permeabilities varied from 10 to 300 micro-darcy. Some values of these permeabilities are reported in
Table 1.

Table 1 − Measured in-situ seam permeability

Coal seam Permeability Gas composition


(µ-darcy) CH4/(CH4+CO2)
Sydney Basin (1) 10 - 30 0.75
Sydney Basin (2) 14 - 18 0.75
Sydney Basin (3) 265-300 0.99
Bowen Basin (1) 78 - 91 0.97




3UHVVXUH DWP


    
7LPHHODSVHG KRXUV

Figure 9 - Pressure increase in a sealed in-seam borehole, Sydney Basin

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Gas from Coal Symposium, 27 March 2001, Brisbane

10

3UHVVXUH DWP 8

0
    
Time elapsed (hours)

Figure 10 - Pressure increase in a sealed in-seam borehole, Bowen Basin

In Figure 11, a single packer which can be used for the determination of in-situ coal permeability is
shown. Gas flow at various sections of borehole can be measured and given the gas content and
composition of gas the permeability can be evaluated.

Figure 11- Packer system for the measurement of coal permeability

The measurement from surface boreholes has been used in recent years to estimate the in-situ
permeability of coal seams prior to mining. The in-situ measurement of permeability from surface
boreholes often consists of drilling a few holes with the central hole as the injecting or producing hole
and the others as monitoring holes where the level of water and pressure is measured.
The flow in the proximity of testing wells (boreholes) is a 2-phase flow, the multiphase well testing
involves pumping down the head of water and charting the production of both water and gas. A
computer model is then used to reproduce the measured flowrate history and assess the relative
permeability curves. However, good reproduction of measured results is not easy to achieve due to

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Gas from Coal Symposium, 27 March 2001, Brisbane

changes of other coal properties in the model which are not measured or are not measurable today.
Measurement of all properties, that can be currently achieved is of primary importance for the
evaluation of the numerical model and getting more confidence in the results of both prediction and
measurement.
Multi-phase well testing presents generally 3 stages of water and gas production which evolves as the
pore pressure reduces with the progress of gas and water pumping. Initially only water is produced
(Stage 1) When the pore pressure is reduced further and reached the gas desorption pressure, a rapid
change in the bottom hole pressure occurs following by gas release but not yet not flowing
significantly (Stage 2). With further gas release water production reduces, the permeability to gas
increases and sufficient volume of gas start to release producing a continuos flow of gas (Stage 3).
In Figure 12 the results of measurement of permeability using surface boreholes and well testing is
shown (Williams et al, 2000). Three stages of gas and water flow are shown. At the location of
measurement the coal seam was 5 m thick and at a depth of 350 m. At this depth, the gas content of
coal was 7.5 m3/t. The measured permeability was about 2.0 md.

4000 0.25

S ta ge 1 S ta ge 2 S ta ge 3
3500

W a te r & Ga s P rodcuti on Ra te (li tre s/ m i n)


0.2

3000
Bottom ho le P re ssure (kP a )

2500
0.15

2000

0.1
1500

1000
0.05

500

0 0
0 1 2 3 4 5

El a pse d Tim e (hrs)

Figure 12 - Gas and water production during well testing for permeability measurement

Coal porosity
Porosity is both a measure of free gas stored in coal and neighboring strata, and if the pores are well
connected is also a measure of coal permeability. Coal contains a wide range of pore sizes. IUAPC
(1972) has defined 3 categories of pore size namely macro pores (>50 nm), meso-pores (2-50 nm) and
micro-pores (<2 nm). Only free gas is stored in the pore volume which is small compared to the
volume adsorbed on the pores internal surface (>90% of gas is adsorbed). For both gas storage and
gas flow properties of coal, the pore sizes that can be considered are the meso- and macro- pores. The
best method to measure the volume of these pores is by mercury intrusion, which, under sufficiently
high pressure (>2000 bar) can penetrate into pores of less than 4-nm size.
The study of porosity of coal shows that most coals have a porosity of under 15% volume.

Petrographic Study of Coal


Coal is an extremely finely layered sedimentary rock, the heterogeneous nature of which is obvious at
both macroscopic and microscopic levels. As coal seams are the reservoirs for coal seam gas, the

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Gas from Coal Symposium, 27 March 2001, Brisbane

comparative permeabilities of their disparate layers are relevant to gas flow. Fluid flow rate is largely
dependent on permeability which is, at least in part, related to coal type.
Microlithotype (microscopic bands in coal) analyses may be used as a rapid and inexpensive means of
predicting seam potential permeability in relation to seam gas drainage, especially if used in
conjunction with reported correlations between coal type and seam reservoir properties (Smyth and
Buckley, 1993). For example, the permeability of vitrinite-rich bands in the Bulli Seam, Australia, is
30 milli-darcy, compared with 2.3 milli-darcy for inertinite-rich coal in the same seam. Maceral and
microlithotype compositions are closely related, so that maceral analyses may be used to estimate the
thickness of bright and dull layers, once a relationship has been determined by detailed microlithotype
and maceral analyses. In general, vitrinite-rich plies are likely to provide better flow paths for gas than
inertinite-rich plies because of the abundance of cleat systems in vitrinite. Using this information it
thus may be possible to predict gas and water flow paths in a seam from maceral and/or microlithotype
analyses. In vitrinite-rich coals the gas storage capacity is due to large amounts of molecular (internal)
surface areas, but a high desorption rate is due to large (‘free’) gas volumes stored in cleats and
fractures.

Conclusions
Most of gas storage and flow properties of coal can be quite accurately measured in the field and in
laboratory. Depending on the purpose of the characterisation study a few or all of these properties may
be evaluated. As the understanding of the fundamentals of gas flow in coal has improved, more and
more usage of the mathematical modelling is taking place in seam gas simulation. Most studies for the
design of gas drainage and recovery and for the prediction of gas emissions uses computer simulators.
For such modelling studies, all of the properties described in this paper are required for a realistic
simulation of gas flow.

References
Australian Standard TM, 1999. Guide to the determination of gas content of coal – Direct desorption
method, AS 3980-1999. Published by Standards Australia.

Bertard C, Bruyet B and Gunther J, 1970. Determination of desorbable gas concentration of coal
(Direct Method), Int. Rock Mech Min. Sci., Vol. 7, pp 43-65.

Saghafi A, Battino S and Jeger C, 1989. A Mathematical model for determination of initial in-situ
coal permeability, in Symposium on computer systems in the Australian mining industry, Wollongong,
Australia, pp 200-207.

Smyth M and Buckley M, 1993. Statistical analysis of the microlithotype sequences in the Bulli
Seam, Australia, and relevance to permeability for coal gas, in Int. Journal. Coal Geology, 22: 167-
187.

Williams D J, Saghafi A, Drummond M S and Roberts D B, 1992. Development of new equipment for
rapid determination of coal gas content, in Symposium on coalbed methane research and development
in Australia, Townsville, Australia, 4:21-30.

Williams R, Casey D and Yurakov E, 2000. Gas reservoir properties for mine gas emission
assessment, in the Proceedings of Bowen Basin Symposium 2000, October 2000, Rockhampthon, pp.
325-333.

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