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Report No. COAL R210

DTI/Pub URN 01/1040


D P Creedy and K Garner

S Holloway*
T X Ren**

Wardell Armstrong
British Geological Survey*
University of Nottingham**

The work described in this report was carried out under contract as part of the
Department of Trade and Industry’s Cleaner Coal Technology Transfer Programme.
The Programme is managed by ETSU. The views and judgements expressed in this
report are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of ETSU or the
Department of Trade and Industry.

 Crown Copyright 2001

First published July 2001


D P Creedy, K Garner,
S Holloway and T X Ren


Coalbed methane (CBM) is a natural gas formed by geological, or biological, processes

in coal seams. CBM consists predominantly of methane. Lower concentrations of
higher alkanes and non-combustible gases are also often present.

Most of the world’s CBM resource of around 1x1014m3 lies in seams that have not been
mined or are unlikely to be mined except in the distant future. Although considerable
effort has been expended in exploring and testing virgin CBM (VCBM) wells, no
commercial schemes have yet been developed outside of the USA and Australia.
Remoteness or lack of markets and low coal seam permeability are the major
constraints. The latter appears to be a particular limitation in European prospects,
including those of the UK and widespread development is unlikely to occur in the short
and medium term.

Methane rich gases captured in operational mines have been exploited for many years.
Uses of this coal mine methane (CMM) have included space heating, industrial
processes and power generation. At present, 80% of UK coal mines rely on methane
drainage to capture gas before it enters the mine ventilation system, thus enabling gassy
coal seams to be worked safely. About 40% of the gas drained in UK mines is used
and could increase to 70% if proposed new schemes are introduced.

An important CBM development is the exploitation of methane from abandoned mines.

Six schemes producing an equivalent of 42.5MWe are operational in the UK (June
2001) and more are planned. Abandoned mine methane (AMM) reservoirs consist of
groups of coal seams that have been de-stressed, and therefore of enhanced
permeability, but only partially degassed by longwall working. There is strong
commercial interest in this field in the UK, Germany and USA. The UK has also
initiated transfer of this technology to China. Abandoned mine gas utilisation schemes
benefit the community by providing clean energy from a waste product and reducing
surface emission hazards associated with old workings. They also contribute to a
reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

CBM exploitation in the UK currently amounts to about 55MWe equivalent in total but
this could be more than trebled in the next five years.

Exploitation of CBM from working and abandoned coal mines directly benefits the
environment by reducing greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere. The benefit of
CBM from all sources is that a high quality, clean fuel is produced that can displace
coal burning thus reducing emissions of oxides of sulphur and nitrogen to the
atmosphere. As coal mining releases methane, any reduction in coal production is
accompanied by a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. There are opportunities and
a need to increase the utilisation of drained gas at working mines. However, even if a
mine has a scheme for using drained gas, a substantial proportion will continue to be
emitted with the ventilation air. Technologies for removing this gas are available but
they have not been demonstrated at full scale and the financial viability could be

Recent discoveries indicate that commercial quantities of gas may be recoverable from
a greater range of geological environments than previously thought. Biological
processes may be important gas generators in low rank, high permeability coal seam

Recent technological developments include the use of guided in-seam drilling from the
surface for production of VCBM, and innovative micro-turbines and fuel cells for
generating on site electricity using coal mine or abandoned mine methane.

There is a substantial repository of knowledge on CBM in the UK, particularly in respect

of producing gas from abandoned mines that could be used to promote commercial
activities overseas. Climate change concerns are driving interest in mine gas utilisation
schemes creating possible opportunities for UK investors and equipment suppliers in
China and the former Soviet Union. There is an estimated potential for plant and
equipment sales of £260 million for CMM projects in the latter countries, and possibly in
excess of £100 million for AMM projects, assuming a 20% market share.


1.1 Sources of CBM 3
1.2 CBM and its Nomenclature 4
1.3 Occurrence of Methane in Coal Seams 4
1.4 Gas Storage in Coals 5
1.5 Coal Seam Permeability 5
1.6 Environmental Benefits of CBM 6
2.1 Introduction 7
2.2 VCBM Resources and Reserves 7
2.3 CMM Resources and Reserves in Working Mines 8
2.4 AMM Resources and Reserves 8
2.5 UK Resources and ‘Reserves’ 11
3.1 Introduction 11
3.2 Site Selection 12
3.3 Reservoir Characterisation 13
3.4 Modelling Techniques and Simulation Tools 13
3.5 VCBM Well Design, Testing and Completion 13
3.6 Gas Production 14
3.7 Water Treatment 14
3.8 Improving Well Completion and Performance 14
3.9 New Geological Potential 15
3.10 VCBM Production from Surface to In-Seam Guided Boreholes 15
3.11 Enhanced CBM Recovery (ECBM) 19
3.12 Increasing Seam Permeability 20
3.13 General Status of VCBM Development 21
4.1 Introduction 21
4.2 Gas Release in Coal Mines 22
4.3 Capture Efficiency 23
4.4 CMM Availability 23
4.5 CMM Drainage Techniques 24
4.6 Recent Developments 27
4.7 The General CMM Situation 27
5.1 Introduction 28
5.2 AMM Reservoirs 30
5.3 Effect of Water Ingress 31
5.4 Environmental Benefits 32
5.5 Production Equipment 32
5.6 Safety 33
5.7 Estimating AMM Resources and Reserves 33
5.8 Enhancement of Gas Recovery 34
5.9 Development of New Projects 34
6.1 Introduction 35
6.2 Markets 35
6.3 CBM Use 37
6.4 USA Government R&D 43
6.5 Relevance of New Utilisation Technologies to the UK 43
7.1 Introduction 44
7.2 VCBM Exploration and Potential 44
7.3 Exploitation of CMM 45
7.4 AMM Extraction 46
7.5 CBM Utilisation 46
7.6 Future CBM Development 48
7.7 Regulation of CBM 48
7.8 Barriers to Development 50
7.9 Status Summary 51
8.1 Introduction 51
8.2 Australia 51
8.3 Canada 55
8.4 China 57
8.5 Europe (Geographical) 61
8.6 Former Soviet Union 61
8.7 India 64
8.8 Southern Africa 66
8.9 United States 66
8.10 Comparisons of CBM Production and Use Worldwide 71
10.1 Introduction 72
10.2 China and the Former Soviet Union 73
10.3 India 73
10.4 General 74






Abandoned mine methane (AMM) – gas produced from abandoned coal mine
workings through abandoned mine entries and from boreholes drilled into underground
roadways or former workings. The usable gas is that remaining in coal seams and the
strata on cessation of underground coal mining operations. Gas from this source is
sometimes included in the definition of CMM.

AMM goaf borehole – a surface borehole drilled into strata disturbed by past mining
to exploit any enhanced permeability. May be completed using standard VCBM

Abandoned mine methane reservoir – coal seams disturbed by past mining which are
capable of releasing gas into a particular abandoned mine or interconnected group of
mines. The extent of workings marks the boundary of the reservoir, which may extend
beyond the Petroleum Exploration and Development Licence area.

Blackdamp – a mixture of carbon dioxide and nitrogen usually formed by the

oxidation of air.

Coalbed methane (CBM) - a generic term, originating in the USA, for the methane-
rich gas originating in coal seams. It is also often applied to gas from virgin coal
seams. Approximately equivalent terms are firedamp [UK] and coal seam gas

Desorbable gas - the quantity of gas (m3 per tonne (m3 t-1)) that can be produced from
the primary coal seam sources in a gaseous environment at a particular pressure.

Goaf, waste [UK] or gob [USA] – broken, permeable ground where coal has been
extracted and the roof allowed to collapse thus fracturing and de-stressing strata above
and, to a lesser extent, below.

Coal mine methane (CMM) – gas captured in a working mine by methane drainage
techniques. Sometimes known as mine gas [UK], coal gas [North America].

Natural gas – gas derived from geological strata other than coal seams.

Potentially recoverable gas – the estimated volume of gas that could probably be
recovered using available technology.

Potentially recoverable AMM (AMM reserves) - the estimated volume of gas

desorbable to an absolute gas pressure of around 50kPa together with gas in void space.
Contributions from any workings likely to be totally waterlogged are excluded.

Virgin CBM (VCBM) – methane rich gas recovered from coal seams that have not
been disturbed by mining.

The principal aim of this study is to critically review the current UK and world-wide
status of CBM extraction and utilisation technologies. Thus, the R&D and technology
transfer activities needed to enhance the commercial potential of CBM technologies
originating or applied in the UK can be identified.

The contract was initiated on 15 November 2000 and the work completed in July 2001.
During the course of the study the Second Annual Coalbed and Coal Mine Methane
conference in Denver (27&28 March 2001) was attended (Appendix 1) and also a
conference on International Investment Opportunities in Coalbed and Coal Mine
Methane in London (28&29 March 2001).

The study was undertaken by Wardell Armstrong with the assistance of the British
Geological Survey (BGS) and contributions from the University of Nottingham. The
project was supervised by Mrs Heather Tilley of ETSU on behalf of the UK
Department of Trade and Industry, Cleaner Coal Technology Transfer Programme.

The following tasks were undertaken as part of the study:

• Worldwide literature review and Internet search
• Consultations with the CBM operators, developers and users together with selected
companies, organisations and research institutes with specific CBM production and
utilisation interests throughout the world.
• A review of CBM resources and reserves in respect of working mines, abandoned
mines and virgin seams.
• Assessment of the environmental benefits and impacts of the various CBM
production methods together with regulatory drivers and hurdles.
• Analysis of the CBM market potential for UK companies and institutions both in
the UK and overseas:
• Identify any barriers or inhibitors currently deterring CBM development in the UK.
• Identify future R&D needs to further develop CBM technologies and hence increase
market potential.

Details of meetings, consultations and a survey have been filed in a separate

confidential document and the general findings incorporated in this report.

A Workshop was held on 27 June 2001 at the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI)
Conference Centre, London, to discuss the findings of the project with industry
representatives. The bullet point slides used in the presentation are included as
Appendix 2.


CBM is a potentially important energy resource in many of the major coal mining
countries of the world. Significant volumes of CBM are exploited worldwide. VCBM
predominates in the USA but elsewhere most of the gas originates from operational
deep coal mines with lesser quantities recovered from abandoned mine workings.
Many coal-producing countries are now looking at the potential for wider application
of CBM technologies to maximise the exploitation of gas from coal seams.

CBM is a potentially significant energy resource in the major coal mining countries of
the world especially China, Russia, the United States, Canada and Australia. Most of
the CBM exploited in the world, other than in the USA, is produced from operational
underground coal mines, and a lesser amount from abandoned coal mines.

The principal driver for increasing exploitation of gas from working and abandoned
mines is the global desire to reduce atmospheric emissions of greenhouse gases. CBM,
irrespective of the source, is a cleaner fuel than coal with lower emissions of sulphur,
nitrogen and particulates when burned.

1.1 Sources of CBM

CBM is a clean fuel with similar properties to natural gas when not diluted by air or
other non-combustible mine gases.

CBM can be recovered from coal seams by:

• Draining gas (CMM) from working coal mines
• Extracting (AMM) from abandoned coal mines
• Producing gas (VCBM) from unmined coal using surface boreholes.

Gas may also be recovered from surface boreholes drilled into coal seams in disturbed
strata around abandoned workings (AMM goaf boreholes). If necessary, these
boreholes can be completed using conventional VCBM hydrofraccing techniques to
ensure gas production rates are not limited by wellbore damage to permeability caused
during drilling.

The characteristics of the above CBM sources differ in terms of reservoir definition,
production technology and gas composition. Gas schemes at working and abandoned
coal mines can generally be implemented at lower cost, and are less dependent on
natural coal permeability conditions, than virgin CBM projects.

The advantages and disadvantages to producers and users of the various CBM sources
are compared in Table 1.

1.2 CBM and its Nomenclature

The gas found naturally occurring in coal seams is known generically as firedamp in the
UK or as CBM. The principal constituent of firedamp is methane (typically 80-95%) with
lower proportions of ethane, propane, nitrogen and carbon dioxide. As methane is the
predominant constituent of firedamp, the two terms are often used interchangeably.

The mixtures of firedamp, water vapour, air and associated oxidation products which are
found in coal mines are usually collectively termed ‘mine gas’. However, the USA term
‘coal mine methane’ (CMM) is being increasingly used. In this report CMM refers to gas
drained form working coal mines.

Confusion is sometimes caused by also applying CMM to abandoned mines gas. The
quantity and composition of gas extracted from abandoned mines is influenced by
different factors than those in working mines. The reservoir characteristics are also
different. Gas from abandoned mines therefore merits distinguishing with a different title
and AMM (abandoned mine methane) is used in this report. The high purity methane
obtained from unmined seams is termed ‘virgin CBM’ (VCBM) to differentiate it from
other CBM sources.

Some representatives of the CBM industry believe there are benefits in classifying both
mine gas and gas from abandoned mines as CMM because CMM is a widely accepted
term and introduction of a new term could confuse emissions traders and regulators both
in the UK and the USA. However, it is the authors view that a clearer classification would
help to reduce misunderstandings generally, especially in non-English speaking countries
where the subtleties of meaning are not always recognised.

It is also important to distinguish between CBM resources and CBM reserves. The
former comprises gas-in-place whereas reserves represent the proportion of the
resource that can be demonstrated as economically recoverable. Only proven reserves
have a commercial value. Many of the worlds’ proven reserves of CBM, outside the
USA, are associated with coal mining operations and would be described as CMM in
current parlance. These reserves are relatively small compared with the estimated total
global VCBM resource of 84-281x 1012m3 (World Coal Institute, 1998).

1.3 Occurrence of Methane in Coal Seams

The compositions of coals change with increase in burial depth and time spent at the
elevated temperatures encountered during burial. The heat-driven chemical reactions
accompanying burial, generate various hydrocarbons and other gases which comprise
CBM. The greater the temperature and duration of burial, the higher the coal maturity
(rank) and hence the greater the amount of gas produced. Much more gas was produced
during the ‘coalification’ process than is now found in the seams. The lost gas has been
emitted at ancient land surfaces, dissipated into the pores of surrounding rocks, removed
in solution, and some will have migrated into geological reservoir structures. Original gas
content patterns tend to be preserved following similar trends to coal rank but the
magnitudes depend on the geological erosion history.
1.4 Gas Storage in Coals

CBM can be detected in many sedimentary rocks but generally only in low
concentrations. It occurs in much higher concentrations in coal rather than in any other
rock type because of the ‘adsorption’ process which enables methane molecules to be
densely packed into the coal substance, almost as if a liquid.

The quantity of gas that can be adsorbed increases with pressure, up to a limiting value.
Conversely, it decreases as the temperature increases. At the elevated temperatures
prevailing during gas generation, the coal is able to adsorb less gas than in its
subsequent cooler conditions. In the absence of gas migration from other sources, the
seams will tend to become progressively under-saturated as they are brought closer to
the surface as erosion continues.

The quantity of gas held in the coal substance, at a fixed temperature, varies with
pressure. As pressure is reduced, gas desorbs until equilibrium is established between
the free gas and the adsorbed gas. The relationship between gas pressure and gas
content, known as an ‘adsorption’ isotherm, can be measured in the laboratory. When
account is taken of free gas in porosity and micro-fracture spaces within the coal, in
addition to adsorbed gas, the term sorption is used. Adsorption or sorption test results
are usually measured under conditions representative of the in situ moisture and
temperature of the coal seam. Such measurements of gas content are usually corrected
to a clean coal or ash-free basis. The derived curve is termed a ‘sorption’ isotherm.
The sorption isotherm is used to predict the quantity of gas available for production as
the strata fluid pressure is reduced. In addition to temperature, the sorption properties
of coals depend on moisture content, rank and petrographic composition.

Gas that cannot be accommodated in the coal substance during burial is compressed
into pores or fracture spaces within coal seams and neighbouring strata. Alternatively,
it may become trapped in adjoining strata to form natural gas reservoirs or seep to the
surface to be emitted to the atmosphere. Significant volumes of methane and other
gases can also dissolve in strata water. For example, water pumped from a CBM well
at about 700m depth could, depending on salinity and temperature, contain dissolved
methane up to 1.5 times the volume of water. The release of dissolved methane from
wells with high water production is not necessarily an indicator of good future CBM

1.5 Coal Seam Permeability

Permeability is not a property of the coal but a condition that depends on the stress
regime. Under normal virgin conditions the permeability of solid coal to gases is very
low, and significant gas flow rates will only occur in seams which have an open cleat or
fracture network.

Permeable coal seam fracture systems are often water-filled. Removal of the water
from the fracture (or cleat) system reduces the fluid pressure, allowing methane and
other gases to desorb from the coal once the fluid pressure is less than the sorption
pressure. Continuous de-watering of a CBM well can yield a rising gas production
rate, as the relative gas permeability of the fracture network is enhanced. Continuous
desorbtion of gas from the coal recharges the fractures, allowing gas production over

long periods of time. Coal seams that behave as aquifers, even if gas contents are not
particularly high, have a high gas production potential due to their high permeability.

The cleat system is not always a network of open fractures because it may be partly or
completely mineralised or closed by natural stresses. Mineralised cleat systems contain
minerals such as ankerite deposited by fluids circulating through the connected open
space within the coal seam during or after burial. No significant gas (or water) flows
can usually be produced from seams with heavily mineralised cleat.

The principal factors controlling the ability of coal seams to transmit methane are the cleat
or fracture density, cleat transmissivity, the degree of water saturation and the fluid
pressures in the cleat. The preservation of fracture permeability depends on the structural
history of the coal basin.

1.6 Environmental Benefits of CBM

CBM will remain in a coal seam until extracted at a surface well or disturbed by
underground mining. Methane liberated by active mining or released from abandoned
mineworkings, if not used, enters the atmosphere contributing to anthropogenic
greenhouse gas emissions. Estimated emissions from the various CBM sources in the
UK are shown in Table 2. There is a large uncertainty attached to the AMM estimate
due to differences in methodology and assumptions that have yet to be resolved.

CMM and AMM utilisation schemes significantly benefit the environment by:
• reducing greenhouse gas emissions, as the carbon dioxide produced by combustion
is some 21 times less harmful to the atmosphere than methane
• producing useful energy from a waste product of mining
• displacing coal use in environmentally sensitive areas.

CMM is a major greenhouse gas and the United States Environmental Protection
Agency (USEPA) has set up a Coalbed Methane Outreach Programme to encourage
coal mines to capture and exploit mine gas. The importance of abandoned mines as
sources of greenhouse emissions have not yet been determined. There are indications
that emissions might be greater than first suspected but still considerably lower than
emissions from working coal mines.

VCBM production schemes, which are independent of mining, contribute indirectly to

a reduction in greenhouse emissions by replacing coal burning. However, in some
circumstances they can provide high purity gas for enriching mine gas thus increasing
the total quantity available for utilisation and further contributing to a reduction in
greenhouse gas emissions.

In addition to similar benefits to mine gas schemes the extraction and use of gas from
abandoned mine workings provides the opportunity to minimise odour emissions and
prevent surface hazards arising form the uncontrolled migration of gas to the surface.

A climate change levy has been introduced by the UK Government to promote the use
of environmentally friendly fuels. HM Customs and Excise has informed Alkane
Energy that mine gas used for burner tip fuel will be exempt but that used for electricity

will not be. The levy for electricity is 0.43p kWh-1 (1). This levy will impact on most
mine gas and abandoned mine gas schemes and could discourage development of
marginal projects, thus being environmentally counterproductive.

The Kyoto Protocol envisages the introduction of international trading of greenhouse

gas emission credits (carbon credits) in 2008. These will enable operations, which
achieve net reductions in emissions to sell their credits to companies who are net
emitters to enable them to comply with their industry target. Some companies have
already started buying verified credits anticipating rapid increases in price as possible
compulsory compliance with pre-set emission targets approaches. At current prices
(first quarter 2001), revenue from a UK mine gas scheme could be increased by around
10% by the sale of emission credits. Further details are provided in Appendix 3.

CMM projects are considered ‘good buys’ by emissions credits traders as they are
readily verifiable, the technology of emission reduction is well proven and they
represent a major greenhouse gas source (Fernandez, 2000). Nevertheless, there are
some complexities. For instance, if pre-drainage is practised a credit could not be
claimed until the mining has taken place that would have released the gas.

AMM utilisation schemes may be more difficult to verify for emissions reductions than
drained mine gas as all the gas extracted may not necessarily have been emitted to the
atmosphere in the absence of an extraction scheme and the effects of rising water. Any
verification process should, however, take account of the long-term amelioration
benefit of AMM production.

An emissions reduction registration scheme is being introduced in the UK in

preparation for formal trading against the national inventory. A scientifically based,
rational emissions model is needed before AMM schemes can qualify for inclusion.


2.1 Introduction

For the first time, preliminary estimates have been made of the potentially recoverable
quantities of CBM on a source by source basis.

2.2 VCBM Resources and Reserves

Estimates have been made of the VCBM resources by BGS and presented in a previous
report (Creedy, 1999). Due to low seam permeability and surface access limitations,
the total resource of 2.45x1012m3 was heavily discounted to arrive at a tentative, but
fairly arbitrary, estimate of potentially recoverable reserves. As commercial
production has still not been demonstrated, and also because no operator has yet
attempted to obtain planning consent for a multi-well production field, no proven
reserves can presently be identified. To date, planning consents have been limited to
four and five well groupings. The five-well trial of Evergreen Resources (UK) Ltd may
help to establish a technical basis for defining VCBM reserves in the UK.


In the absence of new information the best, albeit crude estimate of potentially
recoverable VCBM onshore UK, remains at 3x1010m3.

Offshore CBM development would be prohibitively costly. At best, natural gas wells
drilled from existing platforms in certain parts of the North Sea could be deepened to
intersect underlying coals. Any benefits would be marginal and the operation would
not necessarily be cost effective. Until technologies are available which will facilitate a
quantum leap in the production of VCBM from low permeability seams, offshore UK
CBM resources are not likely to attract commercial exploitation in their own right.

2.3 CMM Resources and Reserves in Working Mines

CMM reserves in working mines are represented by the volumes of gas in coal seams
that will be released by planned longwall extraction over the life of the mines. The
recoverable reserves are the volumes of gas that can be captured by methane drainage
systems and delivered to an utilisation plant. When mining ceases and a mine is
abandoned, the residual gas in the mining-disturbed seams contributes to the reserves in
the abandoned mine gas reservoir.

The estimated reserve of CMM in UK mines are 1,620x106m3, assuming that utilisation
is feasible at all deep mines with methane drainage. In arriving at the above volume, it
was assumed that the average life of the remaining gassy deep mines is 10 years, with
an average of 15 faces each producing 1x106tonnes per annum; 6m disturbed roof coal;
a coverage of gas content of 6m3 t-1; worked seam thickness of 2m and 60% of roof gas
available for emission or capture.

Assuming a 50% capture efficiency (and no use of methane in ventilation air) the
amount of usable reserves would be 810x106m3.

The additional AMM reserves created by the closure of these mines, based on the
above assumptions = 40% x 18x106m3 = 7.2x106m3. This figure is much lower than the
actual AMM reserves associated with these mines as all the workings, not just the
recently worked faces, will contribute to the abandoned mine gas reservoir.

2.4 AMM Resources and Reserves

AMM resources consist of the volumes of gas remaining in coal seams that have been de-
stressed by mining and that could potentially be extracted from abandoned mineworkings.
Reserves are the volumes of gas expected to be recoverable having taken account of
groundwater recovery.

Methods for estimating AMM resources and reserves differ in detail but all involve
calculating the quantity of gas remaining in un-mined coal that has been disturbed by
mining activity and which could be extracted by applying a suction pressure to the
abandoned workings.

The key factors are:

• the volume of coal in which the permeability has been enhanced by mining and
which is connected to the extraction site (vent)

• the remaining seam gas content of the coal
• the volume of this gas that can be desorbed from the coal at a given suction pressure.

The method developed by Wardell Armstrong assumes that the recoverable gas in a
mining disturbed seam is the calculated residual gas minus the gas adsorbed at a final
absolute pressure of 50kPa. Further details of AMM reservoir characterisation are
included in Section 5.

This section aims to provide a first broad estimate of the total AMM resource. Coalfield
edges have been omitted where shallow workings may have intimate surface connections
and where opencasting activity is likely to have taken place. It is assumed that de-
watering of a flooded mine is not financially viable and therefore mining areas in which
groundwater is considered to have fully recovered were excluded from reserves.

The AMM potential of the various UK coalfield areas (Figure 1) have been assessed, in
general terms, on the basis of coal occurrence, mining history, gas content and
groundwater status (Appendix 4). It should be noted that individual mines may have
better prospects than indicated in the overall area comments.

The locations of the more than 1500 coal mines that existed at the time of
nationalisation in 1947 has been used to delimit the maximum area of AMM
prospectivity in the UK, as the most extensive longwall mining took place after this
date. There were several coal mines outside these areas, principally in the Pennines,
where Namurian and older coals, such as the Little Limestone Coal, occur. However,
these mines are mostly small and are not considered to be significant AMM resources.
In most of the coalfields, the distribution of post-war mines is influenced by the fact
that the shallower, more accessible parts of the coalfields were mined out in earlier
times. In any event, the shallower parts of the coalfields would be unlikely AMM
prospects due to the probability of air ingress occurring if gas extraction was attempted.

The ‘major mined areas’ of the UK post-1947, excluding the currently working deep
mines are delineated in Figure 2. These areas form the basis for a UK resource
estimate. It should be emphasised that these ‘major mined areas’ are very poorly
constrained at present. It is likely that they overestimate the true size of the areas with
AMM resources, because a variable proportion of these areas will not be affected by
longwall mining. However, determination of the true limits of the areas affected by
longwall mining is beyond the scope of this report.

From the above, it is clear that a detailed assessment would require a study of local
geology, mine plans (eg to determine thickness and gas content of extracted seams and
remaining coal, vertical distance between remaining coal and extracted seams) and
minewater rebound.

An estimate of AMM resources for the entire country requires some broad
generalisations to be made to estimate reservoir volume and gas availability.

Estimation of Coal Reservoir Volume

The AMM reservoir comprises the volume of coal in which the permeability has been
enhanced by mining. Overall, this is approximated by the mined area of the major

coalfields of the UK shown in Figure 2. The total thickness of coal affected by mining
in each mined area was estimated from boreholes or shaft sections in each coalfield.
Where possible shaft sections were used, as these were considered to provide a better
estimate of the part of the Coal Measures section that has been mined. However, no
account is taken of mining below the level of the base of the shaft examined and one
section was used to represent each ‘mined area.’

The following method was used to calculate the coal reservoir volume: The total
thickness of coal in the shaft or borehole was determined. The combined thickness of
the seams known, or presumed, to have been extracted was subtracted from the total.
The position of the extracted seams in the shaft or borehole was noted. Any unmined
seams outside the combined 190m zone of disturbance surrounding a mined seam were
subtracted from the total.

Estimation of Potentially Producible AMM

This stage involves calculation of the remnant seam gas contents of the coal affected by
mining and the volume of this gas that can be desorbed from the coal at a given
production pressure. Measurements of virgin seam gas content are available for many
coalfields and can be estimated for others. Using an empirical relationship established
by Wardell Armstrong, the residual gas-in-place in worked areas of coal can be
approximated as:

• 0.4 x virgin gas content = gas potentially available for production at a pressure of
50kPa in m3 of methane per m3 of disturbed coal.

For the purposes of national resource calculations, the above expression was used. The
results are summarised in Table 3. Reserves were estimated from resources by
applying a correction to account for the proportion of AMM considered to be
inaccessible due to flooding. The level of uncertainty is relatively high due to the gross
assumptions and a detailed assessment is needed to confirm the result. Arguably, the
largest uncertainty is the volume of coal likely to have been isolated by groundwater

An Alternative Resource Estimation Method

An alternative approach would be to estimate the resource per unit area, eg

Calculation for Selby (hypothetical as this is an area of active mining):

One seam extracted (Barnsley seam)

Gas content 5.3m3 per tonne (Stillingfleet, Barnsley seam)
Approximate thickness of coal
within zone 150m above and 40m 6.28m (measured from an NCB borehole)
below Barnsley seam
Assume 40% of virgin gas content = 0.4 × 5.3 × 6.28 per m2 of mine area
gas in surrounding seams potentially
available for production to a = 13.3m3 per m2 of mine area
pressure of 50kPa. = 13.3 million m3 per km2

2.5 UK Resources and ‘Reserves’

First order estimations of onshore UK CBM resources and potentially recoverable gas
are summarised in Table 4. This study indicates that AMM ‘reserves’ could be more
important than other sources. However, these figures should be treated as preliminary
pending a more detailed assessment.


3.1 Introduction

A detailed review of virgin CBM technology and its application in the UK and
worldwide was prepared for the DTI in 1998 (Creedy, 1999). The results of this former
study are summarised and updated in this document.

VCBM recovery is achieved by means of reservoir pressure depletion and accounts for
approximately 28x109m3 per year of VCBM production in the USA. The formation
pressure is allowed to decline as gas is produced under its own energy or as water is
pumped from the coal seam to reduce the hydrostatic pressure. Primary VCBM
production often leaves 50% or more of the methane remaining in the coalbed. VCBM
recovery and recovery rates ultimately depend on the properties of the reservoir. These
include: coal type, coal seam thickness, desorption rate, absolute, relative, and
directional permeability, porosity, pore compressibility, diffusion coefficients and
water saturation.

Despite global interest in VCBM technology no major commercial schemes involving

gas from virgin seams have evolved outside the USA and Australia. Resource
evaluations have not been matched by subsequent commercial development of reserves.
The lack of VCBM development worldwide is due to institutional, regulatory, cultural,
infrastructure, market, gas price and project financing issues rather than solely to
geological factors. The VCBM industry in the USA recognises that, initially, project
economics were aided by a combination of factors. In particular, tax incentives largely

offset the costs of establishing pipeline infrastructure without which the industry would
not have become firmly established.

The performance of a VCBM well will vary with geological and hydrogeological
conditions, drilling techniques, stimulation method, maintenance and operational
procedures. Maximum gas production rates of CBM wells in the USA average from
1,400m3 day-1 (m3 d-1) (50,000ft3 d-1) to 8,400m3 d-1 (300,000ft3 d-1). Gas flows
achieved from productive wells in various countries are compared in Table 5.

CBM operators gain the knowledge that enables them to best exploit the natural
characteristics of the coal seam reservoirs in a particular area by trial and error. This
skill and experience is location-specific. Transfer of the technology to coal basins
elsewhere involves a learning process in which the technology is adapted to suit the
prevailing geological conditions. The ultimate limitations are the natural fracture
permeability, thicknesses and gas contents of the coal seams.

A virgin CBM operation involves:

• desk study and exploration
• site selection
• reservoir characterisation
• gas well design, testing and completion
• production, gas treatment and water disposal.

3.2 Site Selection

Factors that influence the selection of well sites include geology, gas content,
environmental impact, water disposal options, access and market opportunities.

The most technically attractive virgin CBM prospects comprise a succession of thick,
continuous seams at moderately shallow depths with gas contents in excess of 7-8m3 t-1.
Commercial success in producing from low gas content Powder River coals in the USA
shows that high gas content is not essential provided the coal seam permeability is very
high. The gas production potential depends on its transmissibility within the seams and
the formation fluid pressure. Drilling and in situ testing are, therefore, essential.
Definitive results may not even be obtained at this stage. Formation damage caused by
drilling fluids can result in an under-estimate of effective permeability. Production of
water from a coal seam may indicate high permeability but unless pumping can reduce the
hydrostatic head, no significant gas production will be achieved.

The features of a high-grade CBM site are summarised in Table 6 and the factors
indicative of gas production potential are listed in Table 7 (Creedy,1999).

3.3 Reservoir Characterisation

Reservoir characterisation involves geological mapping, interpretation of geophysical

or cored borehole logs to determine the quantity of coal in place, and determination of
coal seam properties from both measurements on samples and in situ testing.
Simulation and modelling techniques are then used to predict the reservoir behaviour
and likely production well performance. The methods described in the previous report
(Creedy, 1999) continue to be used and no major changes are evident. Although
modern seismic techniques could assist exploration they are generally considered too
costly for the CBM industry to routinely use.

The tests can be undertaken by oilfield service companies and increasingly sophisticated
measuring and interpretation tools are becoming available. The parameters measured
generally relate to water rather than gas and need adjusting accordingly. In coal seams of
low permeability, response times to the various tests are likely to be long and the results
may be inconclusive.

3.4 Modelling Techniques and Simulation Tools

Mathematical models have been developed to predict the likely gas production capability
of a reservoir and to aid the design of well spacing. The models are invariably applied in
the form of simulators to enable the sensitivity of parameter variability to be assessed.
Some engineers are sceptical of these simulators because values for the critical
parameters are rarely known with any degree of confidence and are usually estimated by
history matching (adjusting parameters until results match measured production results).
Incorrect balances of values can yield a close match but yield erroneous predictions of
unknown parameters such as effective permeability. The limitation is not the quality of
models but a lack of measured data and inappropriate use of simulators.

Nevertheless, computer models can be helpful in gaining an understanding of reservoir

performance. Details of the available modelling and simulation techniques are
provided in Appendix 5 together with contact addresses.

3.5 VCBM Well Design, Testing and Completion

The most widely used system of stimulation is hydraulic fracturing, often called
hydrofraccing. This method involves inducing a fracture in the strata by the injection
of liquid under pressure, typically water, foam or gel. Sand, or some other material
(proppant), is used to keep the fractures open to allow free passage of gas and water
once the injection pressure is released.

A vertical hydraulic fracture can be propagated in the coal seam over distances of up to
300m on either side of the borehole. The fracture forms a path of high conductivity
along which gas can flow into the borehole. Fractures may be created from the same
borehole in a whole series of seams either by isolating each seam with a packer and
treating it individually or by propagating a fracture through a series of closely spaced
seams. Hydraulic fracturing usually produces a single elongate fracture propagated
along the line of least resistance in the formation.

Openhole dynamic cavity completion (sometimes known as natural cavitation) methods
are used in parts of the San Juan basin in the USA. This process, originally devised in
Canada in the late 1970s, involves repeatedly pressurising and depressurising the
exposed coal using compressed air and then removing the broken material on each
cycle by drilling. Cavity completions have been successful where reservoir
permeability is at least 5md and the reservoir is overpressured. The technique is
generally more expensive to use than hydraulic fracturing and has not been
demonstrated to any extent outside the San Juan basin.

3.6 Gas Production

Where water is pumped to allow gas to desorb from the coal, the sooner the pressure is
lowered, the sooner the gas flows. De-watering a relatively small hydrogeologically
bounded block of coal (a fault-bounded block for example) using a single well may
allow early gas production in comparison with attempting to de-water a large unfaulted
area. Where natural permeability barriers such as faults do not exist, artificial barriers
can be created by using additional wells. For example, in a five well pattern, four wells
surrounding a central well could provide artificial boundaries to the area of influence of
the central fifth well and allow full de-watering of the coal seams around it. Optimal
borehole spacing depends on the radius of influence of the well on the coal seams. This
will depend mainly on coal seam permeability. It may be difficult to design optimal
well spacing in built-up areas where access for drilling is restricted.

3.7 Water Treatment

Treatment and disposal of water produced from CBM wells can be costly. The
common disposal methods used in the USA are deep injection wells and evaporation
ponds. Not all CBM wells produce large quantities of water. Some gas productive coal
seams are dry. When coal seam permeability is low, water production is minimal
unless an aquifer is inadvertently connected to the production well. Inadequately
cemented borehole casing can sometimes lead abnormal water inflows. Most UK
VCBM wells are not expected to produce large volumes of water from coal seams.

3.8 Improving Well Completion and Performance

Improvements in individual well performance, mainly in the USA, have been obtained
by the continual refinement of techniques aimed at:
• identifying sites with favourable permeability
• minimising flow restrictions between the coal formation and production wells
• optimising borehole spacing and de-watering strategies
• identifying and remedying degraded well performance.

The effectiveness of a well completion is dependent on many different factors most of

which are not easily measured or controlled. In addition, the geology at each site is
unique. There is always the uncertainty that a badly performing well may not be
yielding expected fluid flows because of inadvertent damage to the coal seam, or poor
connectivity between the well and the natural fracture structure in the coal. Insufficient
or overly enthusiastic stimulation can both create problems. Fluids and additives

introduced during drilling and completion can reduce permeability of the coal around
the wellbore, and in the worst case also around a hydraulically induced fracture. This
results in under estimation of the production capability of the coal and could lead to
abandonment of a potentially commercial prospect. Some producers seek to minimise
formation permeability damage during drilling and fraccing by using clean fluids,
under-balance drilling and, where practicable, by avoiding coring mini-fraccing and
downhole testing prior to completion of production wells. VCBM production is still
very much an art.

3.9 New Geological Potential

In the USA, persistence has paid off in some coalfield areas that were initially considered
poor CBM prospects. For example, the low gas content (1.8m3 t-1) sub-bituminous coals
of the Powder River Basin in Wyoming, USA, have proved to be good producers. A
combination of thick seams and high permeability (10-1000mD) compensates for the low
gas content. The penalty for high permeability is a high water make and water disposal

Anthracite coals have a reputation as poor producers in the USA but studies in China have
shown that in some geological circumstances, such as those exhibited in the Qinshui
coalfield, anthracites can retain a fracture network capable of producing commercial gas

There is some evidence that, in the San Juan basin, USA, a proportion of the methane
produced from the most prolific wells (located in the so-called ‘fairway’) may be of
relatively recent biogenic origin. Methanogens are thought to have been introduced in
groundwater. Methanogens may also be responsible for the highly productive Powder
River coal seam gas occurrences. This opens the possibility of significant gas occurrences
in a wide range of shallow permeable coals (ie coal seam aquifers), irrespective of coal
rank (Scott, 2001).

3.10 VCBM Production from Surface to In-Seam Guided Boreholes

In-seam boreholes can be installed from a surface borehole using specialist guided
drilling techniques.

The benefits for VCBM production are:

• a borehole can be steered to intersect the dominant fracture system of the coal, thus
commercial production may be achievable from marginal permeability coals if
sufficient fractures are intercepted
• increased contact with coal production zone and clean drilling obviates need for
• multiple branched holes can be drilled from a single, convenient surface location
• multiple wells can be drilled from a single pad, thus reducing the costs of access,
drilling and gas gathering
• improved mine safety when used for pre-drainage of coal seams ahead of mining.

Guided drilling technologies have been used successfully for many years within the oil
and gas industry. Advancements in down-hole measurement and communications
technology coupled with ability to locate guidance sensors directly behind the drill bit,
has resulted in the development of a new generation of guided drill equipment capable
of providing greater accuracy, increased drilling speeds and cleaner hole completions.

The measurement of position co-ordinates and formation characteristics close to the bit,
together with the ability to transmit the information to the surface, allows the engineer
to steer the borehole accurately, particularly when combined with rotary steerable
drilling systems that can be operated remotely from the surface.

Guided Drilling Technology

There are two main types of guided drilling systems:

• down hole motors (DHM) with bent-sub assemblies, and
• advanced rotary steerable systems.

Both systems incorporate down-hole monitoring sensors to capture and relay information
to the surface, and in some instances, also to transmit commands to the steering unit.

DHM are turbines which use the hydraulic force of the drilling fluid to rotate the
cutting bit. Sensors are located behind the motor. The accuracy of steering depends on
the proximity of the sensors to the drill head. Older systems in which the sensors are
10m or more behind the drilling tool can be difficult to keep in-seam.

For guided drilling a bent-sub assembly with a fixed angle is used with a DHM. The
angle cannot be adjusted during drilling, any changes require the drill assembly to be
withdrawn from the hole. Control is achieved by rotating the bent-sub to follow the
required trajectory using a combination of pushing and rotating of the drill string. The
angle of the bent sub assembly is selected to match the required deviation of the hole.

Greater control of the borehole along the planned trajectory can be achieved using
rotary steerable technology. These systems incorporate guidance sensors directly
behind the drill bit providing data at the point of drilling. Communications between the
down-hole drill assembly and surface allows the direction of the drill bit to be adjusted
remotely without the need to withdraw the rods. Changing the drill bit direction can be
achieved by the use of ribs or eccentric cams that push against the wall of the borehole.
Alternatively, the drill assembly can be deflected using an eccentric cam.

Rotary steerable techniques produce a smoother borehole than DHM systems as the
degree of correction is more easily adjusted. The other main advantage is faster drilling
rates due to better cuttings removal. As with many technologies inappropriate use or
management of the equipment will result in poor performance.

Control of surface to in-seam guided drilling is aided by the use of 3-dimesional (3D)
modelling software to represent and characterise the geological conditions. Advances
in technology have resulted in the option to incorporate sensors that measure both
drilling parameters (co-ordinates) and petrophysical properties of the surrounding

strata. The quantity and quality of down-hole data will vary for each application
depending on the characteristics of the target horizon and immediate strata.

Various specialist tools and methods are available for initiating a branched borehole
from the primary casing. All involve the following elements:
• Access through casing – this can be achieved by physically cutting a slot (access
window) in an existing set casing or by the use of preformed opening in the casing
string. The position is predetermined prior to installing the casing. An opening is
formed in the casing and covered with a composite material, which is easily drilled,
to maintain the integrity of the casing.
• A deflection tool – this is installed below the access window that guides the drill bit
through the composite material allowing drilling of the lateral. This tool is
retrieved once the lateral borehole is completed.
• Casing – options are available to install permanent or temporary casing in the
lateral borehole. Specialist tools can be used to ensure that lateral casing does not
obstruct the primary vertical casing so allowing access to all parts of the borehole.

Experience of Surface to In-seam Guided Drilling

CDX Gas (USA) have developed a guided system using under-balanced drilling
techniques together with rotary steerable drilling to install surface to in-seam horizontal
boreholes. The technique allows a large area of coal reserves to be accessed from a
single surface location resulting in benefits relating to planning, access, environmental
issues, visual impact and restoration. It is reported that from a single surface location a
1000acre area of coal can be accessed.

Holditch Associates have compared this technique with conventional vertical fracced
wells. Initial results indicate that a vertical well at 1000ft in a 45ft thick coal seam will
yield about 11% gas over 20 plus years whereas horizontal guided drilling can enable a
gas capture of 90% to be achieved in less than 30 months. An additional benefit of this
technology is that an area of coal can be quickly de-watered.

CDX claim that boreholes can be controlled using their rotary steerable system in a
0.5m coal seam. Drilling rates of over 300m d-1 can be achieved with boreholes
extending to 6000m. This technology is presently been employed by US Steel to pre-
drain coal in advance of mining. The method of drilling has the advantage that no
metal casing is used and so mining is unrestricted in the panel.

Consol (USA) is planning a number of guided in-seam test holes in 2001. It is

understood that Halliburton’s drilling subsidiary Sperry Sun will be using their rotary
steerable system.

Surface to in-seam guided drilling technology has been developed by Sigra Pty Ltd
(Australia). The system uses a DHM and bent sub assembly to control the trajectory of
the borehole. The have developed a sophisticated high frequency rock recognition
system to provide detailed information of the geological conditions. Unlike
conventional oil and gas communications systems, the Sigra guided drilling system
uses a helical connection on the inside of the drill rods to transfer data from down-hole
to the surface. This method offers the advantage of faster data transfer than

conventional mud pulse systems. Interception of guided boreholes is achieved by
placing a radio source down one borehole, accuracy increasing within a 50m radius.
Research is continuing on the incorporation of formation logging sensors to supplement
location sensors for underground guided drilling.

Tight-radius Drilling Technology

The Australian Centre for Mining Technology and Equipment (CMTE), in

collaboration with BHP Mitsui Coal Pty Ltd, has developed a tight-radius drilling
system (TRD) shown in Figure 3. The system is lowered into a conventional borehole
where a water-jetting device is directed within the borehole to cut lateral boreholes.
Field trials have been undertaken and Anglo Coal Pty Ltd envisage using the system to
pre-drain methane in advance of mining. The system could also have a role in VCBM
well completion as an alternative to hydrofraccing.

Current limitations of the technology are:

• maximum length of laterals about 200m
• inability to control the trajectory of the laterals
• unable to line the lateral holes against collapse
• operating depth limited to some 500m.

The main components of the TRD system are:

• Waterjet drilling assembly - a self-advancing, high-pressure waterjet drill,
connected to a high-pressure supply proving both cutting and trust force.
• Whipstock - a device which guides the drilling assembly from a vertical to
horizontal orientation by means of an erectable arm providing a smooth curved path
for flexible service pipes and monitoring instrumentation.
• Surface rig - capable of moving the waterjet drilling assembly to the desired depth
of operation within the borehole, and control the drilling system during lateral
drilling. The rig will incorporate a number of powered drums to feed or retract the
high pressure hose and control bundle, as well as a computer unit to analyse and
display the information coming from the whipstock via the control bundle.

A vertical well is drilled with a cavity created at each target horizon to allow access for
the TDR equipment. The whipstock is lowered down the well and positioned relative
to the cavity allowing the drilling assembly to be lowered down the inside of the
tubing. The drilling assembly passes through the top section of the whipstock and
lands in the erectable arm. The arm is then pushed into position to align the drilling
tool at the coal seam target. High-pressure water is then supplied from a surface pump,
down the high-pressure conduit to the drilling tool. The water is used to both cut the
borehole and provide sufficient thrust force to advance the drill. This procedure is
repeated for each lateral.

Over the past five years more than A$7.5 million has been spent on research and
development of the TRD technology. In addition to laboratory based work two major
field trials have been conducted.

Hillview 14 Trial - Moura 1997: This trial was held at BHP-Mitsui Coal’s Moura Mine
Site, located within the Bowen Basin, Queensland. It used an early proof-of-concept
prototype TRD system. A total of just under 1000m of lateral in-seam holes were
drilled most at a depth of 230m with some relatively short holes drilled at a depth of
300m. After drilling the hole was de-watered and gas production quickly reached a
peak of just over 1 TeraJoule (TJ) of methane per day, with cumulative production of
over 250TJ measured over the next 2 years.

Grasstree Trial - German Creek June 2000: This trial took place at Anglo Coal’s
Grasstree Mine. In excess of 1100m of horizontal laterals were drilled at a depth of
250m. Lateral hole lengths of up to 170m were achieved, with the average length of
the seven longest holes being 140m. The average drilling rate was approximately 1m
per minute. A prototype survey system showed encouraging performance although
improvement in precision will be necessary for commercial application.

Gas production could not be properly assessed due to reliability problems with the de-
watering pump. Indications were that peak gas flows in excess of 1TJ per day could be
reached if continuous pumping is sustained for at least one month.

Subsequent technical improvements are expected to result in an increase of the average

lateral drilling distance to 200m, an improved survey system and an average
penetration rate in excess of 1m per minute. This performance probably represents the
limit of the capability of the current TRD equipment.

Applicability of Surface to In-seam Drilling in the UK

Despite the availability of sophisticated guided drilling technology, there is limited

experience of its application in-seam drilling in UK Coal Measures Strata.

Specialist drilling operators report significant benefits of surface to in-seam guided

drilling techniques although the precise details of the technology are not available for
review due to commercial sensitivity.

3.11 Enhanced CBM Recovery (ECBM)

ECBM is a process which involves the injection of a gas into the coal seams to increase
the quantity of methane recovered. Nitrogen or carbon dioxide is used to sweep
methane from the fracture network in the coal, reducing the partial pressure of methane
and thus enhancing desorption from the matrix. Carbon dioxide has an additional
effect because it is preferentially adsorbed onto coal surfaces, displacing methane from
adsorption sites. Field tests have confirmed higher production of methane when
injecting carbon dioxide and the retention of two to three times more carbon dioxide
than the volume of methane produced. However, the use of nitrogen proved financially
more attractive than carbon dioxide injection in the USA as the nitrogen could be
recovered and recycled whereas the carbon dioxide was retained by the coal.

Carbon dioxide retention in coal seams is now being considered by some countries as a
potentially important sequestration process with enhanced CBM recovery as a by-
product and a means of subsidising the operation. This topic is currently being
investigated in European Union research projects involving the UK, Netherlands,

France, Germany and Poland. The Dutch government in particular is anxious to find a
cost-effective means of disposing of carbon dioxide to enable it to meet its emission
reduction targets.

In order for injected gases to penetrate the coal substance at a reasonable rate, the
seams must have a moderate to high permeability (perhaps 1-5mD). This could be a
barrier to the commercial application of ECBM injection techniques in many coalfield
areas of the world, unless a means of artificially enhancing coal seam permeability can
be found.

3.12 Increasing Seam Permeability

Various artificial methods for increasing seam permeability have been suggested. All
those involving injecting fluids, however, require a sufficiently high permeability to
allow fluid penetration in the first instance. No practical cost-effective method for
enhancing the natural fracture permeability of tight coal seams has yet been
demonstrated other than by undermining with a longwall.

Chemical Removal of Mineralisation from the Cleat System

Injecting acid into reservoirs to remove carbonate cement and improve well
productivity is practised in the oil industry. However, injecting acid into coal seams to
dissolve cleat mineralisation is unlikely to be commercially feasible or environmentally
acceptable, as vast amounts of acid and long injection periods would be needed to
enhance permeability over a significant area.

Biotechnological Enhancement of Gas Content and Permeability

Scott (2001) suggests biotechnology might be used to improve the gas bearing and flow
characteristics of selected CBM reservoirs. Coal bioconversion is a natural process and
has been observed in samples of well cuttings leading to the recording of erroneously high
seam gas contents. This process has also been proposed as an explanation for the
exceptional methane producibility in parts of the San Juan basin.

Methanogens artificially introduced into a coal deposit could microbially increase the
CBM content as well as enhancing the permeability by removing pore-plugging waxes.
However, reaction rates may be limited by formation temperatures, accumulation of toxic
waste products and the small cleat areas accessible to the microbes. Any biomass
formation could detract from permeability gain arising from coal degradation.

This novel concept warrants further research.

De-stressing by Previous Longwall Mining

An opportunistic approach to permeability enhancement is to take advantage of strata

disturbances caused by past longwall mining. The permeability of unmined coal
seams, and surrounding strata, is greatly enhanced when underlying seams are mined,
as the coal-bearing strata collapse to fill the void left by mining, reducing in situ stress
and enhancing natural fractures within the strata. Favourable targets for CBM are
likely to be seams in the range 75-100m above a longwall goaf in an area of high gas
content coals. However, where weak strata are being mined, compaction following
mining and subsidence could result in little improvement in transmissibility in some
instances. In the UK coal seams are generally under-pressured. Aquifers disturbed by
mining could saturate the fracture network, the increased fluid pressures inhibiting gas
release until removed by de-watering.

Standing water in some boreholes drilled through old, shallow goaf in the UK indicates
enhanced permeability may not necessarily be conserved. In contrast, flows of gas
from long abandoned surface goaf boreholes (originally drilled above active longwalls)
in the USA demonstrates that in some instances enhanced fracture can be preserved.
Strong roof beds may be a necessary requisite for the preservation of a productive
reservoir. Further geotechnical research is needed in this area.

Geologically Enhanced Permeability

The permeability of coal seams can be influenced by geological structural variations.

Coal seam permeability is sometimes enhanced in the vicinity of a fault, dyke or fold.
However, structurally complex areas tend to have damaged cleat systems and low
permeability especially where severe structural compression has occurred. The western
part of the South Wales coalfield would fit this category. In general, productive CBM
areas are likely to have a relatively simple geological structure to ensure the continuity
of reservoirs.

3.13 General Status of VCBM Development

Advancement continues to be made in abilities to identify geologically favourable sites,

minimising formation damage during the drilling and treatment of wells and increasing
the effectiveness of completions. Advanced drilling techniques used in the
conventional oil and gas industry, such as deviated drilling and coiled tubing
technologies are now also being used for VCBM applications. The geological
understanding of CBM occurrences has also been challenged and new ideas introduced.


4.1 Introduction

Methane is released from coal seams that are disturbed by mining activities. As coal
production increases, more gas is released. There is a limiting coal production at which
the gas emitted into the mine roadways can no longer be diluted to a safe and legally
acceptable concentration. In order to achieve higher coal production, some of the gas

must be intercepted before it can enter the mine airways. This is achieved using
methane drainage techniques. 13 out of 16 of the major collieries in the UK rely on
methane drainage to attain their planned coal output.

Methane drainage in UK mines involves capturing methane released from unmined

coal seams within the strata above and below a longwall face. Boreholes are drilled
into the strata which has been de-stressed by mining and connected to pipelines to
which suction is applied to draw out the gas.

Gas Drainage Infrastructure

Methane exhausters are generally installed on the surface although underground

installations which vent the collected gas into return airways, are used in some mines
where drained quantities of firedamp are relatively low.

The feasibility of colliery gas (CMM) utilisation schemes depends on both mine gas
availability and market conditions. The gas availability and its likely variability in flow
and quality can be assessed from a study of the mine development plan, the mining
method, geological conditions, seam gas content data, historical gas emission data and a
knowledge of methane drainage practices and the methane drainage infrastructure at the
mine. Account must be taken of degassing effects of previous workings in a colliery
where more than one seam has been worked, uncertainty in the mining programme and
the expected life of the colliery.

4.2 Gas Release in Coal Mines

Longwall caving may de-stress strata from 160-200m above and from 40-70m below the
worked seam. Any gas sources within the disturbed zone will release gas which will flow
into the workings unless it is captured in methane drainage boreholes.

The extent of the zone disturbed by longwall mining, at a particular location, depends on
the length of the coalface, the height of the coalface, the strata strength, the depth of
working and effects of previous workings.

In virgin strata, where longwall coal faces are less than 250m in length, the de-stressed
zone in the roof may not extend as high as 200m. Progressively shorter coalfaces will
produce correspondingly smaller heights of de-stressed strata in the roof. The volume of
gas released when the coal is worked will, therefore tend to decrease per tonne of coal
mined due to the smaller number of coal seams disturbed. This effect is likely to be most
noticeable where there are strong beds in the roof.

The rate of gas flow into a particular longwall mining district depends on the gas contents,
number and thicknesses of seams in the disturbed zone, the proximity of the seams to the
worked seam, the age of the district and, most importantly, the rate of advance or retreat.

The gas flow on the coalface correlates closely with the coal cutting activities but the
emissions from seams above and below the workings depend not only on the current day’s
retreat rate but also on that of previous days. This occurs due to the cumulative effect of
progressive disturbance on gas emission.

4.3 Capture Efficiency

The performance of a methane drainage system is usually assessed in terms of methane

capture efficiency. The methane capture efficiency of a gas drainage system in a
longwall district, as a percentage, is calculated as:

(100×F) / T

where F is the flow of methane in the drainage pipework (on a pure gas basis) and T is
the total methane flow in the airway plus the drained methane (on a pure gas basis).
Allowance is made for any pollution of the ventilation air entering the mining district
and for any unmeasured gas leaving the district through inaccessible bleeder roads,
sewer gate systems or service boreholes.

The gas released from the coalface, from uncut coal left in situ and from coal cut by the
coalface machine is uncapturable. The capture efficiency is, therefore, always less than
100%. Due to mining, geotechnical and engineering limitations, a gas drainage system
would also be unlikely to capture all of the gas released from adjacent coal seams.

Depending on mining conditions, geology, coal permeability and method of methane

drainage employed capture efficiencies can range from 30% to in excess of 90%.
Capture efficiencies achieved in the UK where a cross-measures drainage method is
used range from 30-80%. Capture performance is site specific and even on a particular
longwall can vary over its length depending on geological and mining conditions.

4.4 CMM Availability

Ventilation and methane drainage planning are based on previous experience of working a
particular seam or on a gas prediction method. At UK collieries, the likely gas emission
into a longwall district, and its dependence on coal production rate, is usually predicted.

The likely availability of CMM in terms of flow and quality can be determined from a
study of the mine development plan, projected coal production, the geological conditions,
seam gas content data and historical gas emission data. Significant reductions in gas
availability can occur when previous workings in an overlying seam are underworked
provided the interval is less than say 100m. This reduction occurs due to the degassing
effect of the earlier workings.

Methane prediction models (eg the MRDE firedamp prediction method developed by the
former British Coal Corporation) can be used to provide an estimate of the total flow of
gas expected. The models were designed to assist ventilation planning but with caution
they can also be used for assessing gas availability for utilisation.

However, not all of the predicted gas flow may be usable for several reasons:
• the captured gas flow could at times exceed the capacity of the utilisation plant, and
therefore some gas will be vented to the atmosphere
• an excess supply is needed to ensure the plant is able to run at capacity
• methane flows are highly variable and a scheme with sufficient utilisation capacity to
consume peak gas flows may not be financially viable
• equipment cannot run continuously and efficiently without regular attention
necessitating planned maintenance stoppages. Plant breakdowns can also occur
• due to ground movement and practical underground engineering limitations excessive
air may occasionally be drawn into the gas collection system leading to loss of purity.
At times, therefore, the concentration of gas arriving at the surface will be less than the
permitted minimum concentration to use. The unusable gas must either be vented or
enriched with higher purity gas from another source eg natural gas or liquified
petroleum gas (LPG).

4.5 CMM Drainage Techniques

Various methane drainage techniques have been developed. They can be divided into
two categories, either pre-drainage or post-drainage. Pre-drainage involves removing
firedamp from coal seams in advance of mining. Post-drainage involves capturing
methane released after the strata has been disturbed by extracting coal and allowing the
roof to cave. The applicability of the fundamentally different approaches depends
chiefly on the natural fracture permeability of the coal seams. Pre-drainage is only
feasible where seams have a sufficiently high permeability to allow significant gas flow
in virgin conditions ie before being disturbed by mining.

Pre-drainage using horizontal boreholes drilled in the worked seam from underground
roadways or shafts can be effective in reducing the gas contents of coal seams in
advance of mining. Attempts to apply it in the UK have not been successful due to low
seam permeability. Pre-drainage is used in many mines in the USA where seams are
generally shallower and of higher permeability than those worked in UK mines.

Surface VCBM production techniques have been used in the USA to drain gas ahead of
working. The depth of most underground workings, low seam permeability, high
drilling costs and surface environmental and access constraints precludes the
application of surface pre-drainage technology to deep mining in the UK.

All post-drainage methods involve obtaining access, by some means or other, to the
zone of disturbance above, and also sometimes below, the worked seam.

Access is gained by drilling from the underground roadways, drilling from the surface,
driving roadways into the disturbed zone or exploiting old workings which lie within
the disturbed zone. Irrespective of the method of access, the aim is to consistently
capture sufficient gas to ensure that the mine ventilation can satisfactorily dilute any
remaining emissions at the planned rate of coal production. The choice of method is
determined by practicality, safety and cost.

Underground Cross-measures Methane Drainage

The most effective post-drainage method in common use in modern, deep gassy longwall
coal mines is cross-measures methane drainage. This method was initiated in Germany
more than 40 years ago but has been considerably refined since. It is in common use
throughout Europe but few if any mines in the USA use the method as shallower
conditions enable alternative approaches to be used.

Boreholes are drilled at an angle above, and also in some instances below, the goaf. The
boreholes are drilled close to the coalface and linked to a common pipe range. Suction is
applied to the pipe range from either surface or underground pumps to draw the gas to a
discharge point or methane utilisation plant. Sufficient air is passed around the mine
district to dilute gas, which is not captured by the firedamp drainage system, to a safe level
together with the gas emitted from the worked seam itself.

The suction applied to methane drainage boreholes to encourage gas flow also tends to
draw ventilation air through fractures in the surrounding strata. Standpipes are inserted
into the initial section of borehole to minimise this air ingress. No gas can be captured
from any seams (or gas-bearing sandstones) within the standpipe length of 10m or so
above the worked seam. Any leaks in the pipework system within the mine will also
result in additional dilution of the captured methane.

Methane concentrations (purities) in drained gas can range from a few per cent to more
than 90% in exceptional circumstances. Some control on purity is achievable. Increasing
suction in an effort to increase gas flow will introduce more air and hence reduce the gas
purity. Conversely, reducing suction (eg by stopping a methane pump) will reduce the
total mixture flow but improve gas purity. The balance between gas flow and purity is
achieved either by manual adjustment or by an automatic control system at the methane
drainage plant. Gas purity is controlled by adjusting a by-pass valve, switching pumps off
or on, and by regulating flows from sealed off waste areas underground.

The methane drainage system can only capture gas from seams above or below the
worked seam. The gas released from the worked seam, uncut coal left in the seam and
coal cut by the coalface machine is uncapturable. Furthermore, due to mining,
geotechnical and engineering constraints, a methane drainage system would be unable to
capture all of the gas released from the adjacent seams. The theoretical maximum capture
efficiency is therefore always less than 100%.

Almost all modern high-production coalfaces use a retreat longwall method of mining.
On a retreating coalface, boreholes are usually drilled behind the face line where special
support and ventilation arrangements are needed to enable the methane drainage boreholes
to be drilled safely. Poor roof conditions, or floor lift behind the face can create access
difficulties and seriously delay borehole installation. The difficulties of space limitations
are sometimes exacerbated by high temperatures and the occurrence of gas layering. To
reduce the access problem and ensure a safe drilling environment, boreholes are
sometimes drilled from the return roadway before the face passes. Limited success has
been achieved with pre-drilling but consistency of capture and high capture efficiencies
are rarely achieved due to the effects on the boreholes of high stresses around the face

Drainage to the Surface using Vertical Goaf Wells

This approach, used in Australia, China, South Africa and the USA, involves drilling
vertical boreholes from the surface above longwall panels to capture gas from coal
seams in the roof strata disturbed by coal extraction.

The method is applicable to relatively shallow longwall coal mines where there are few
restrictions on surface drilling and the construction of surface venting sites. Due to
surface environmental and depth constraints the method is not likely to see future
application in the UK.

Goaf Drainage from Underlying or Overlying Roadways

In the late 1940s a method of gas drainage sometimes termed the ‘superjacent heading’
or ‘Hirschbach’ method was developed in the Saar coalfield which involved driving a
heading above the worked seam prior to its extraction by a longwall method. Where
practicable the roadway was driven in coal to reduce the cost. Sometimes boreholes
were drilled from the roadway to extend its zone of influence. The roadway was then
stopped-off, a methane drainage pipe being installed in the stopping to draw the gas
away. Typically a drainage roadway would be situated from 20-25m above the worked
seam or less than 20m below. Due to the high cost this method is not commercially
viable in mines other than where an existing roadway can be exploited.

Goaf Drainage using Long, Horizontal Boreholes Above or Below the Worked

Modern guided longhole drilling techniques have the potential to achieve a similar
result to the above method without incurring the additional cost of driving an access
drift and a gas drainage roadway. A borehole started from the worked seam can be
guided through an arc to run parallel to the workings at a selected horizon above or
below. To achieve a reasonable gas capture, and also to make due allowance for
borehole damage as the longwall face retreats, three or more boreholes are required.
An attempt to demonstrate the method in the UK failed due to drilling difficulties
(Bennett, 1994) resulting from swelling of mudstones and borehole instability.
Successful applications have been demonstrated in Australia, China and the USA.

A project, Improved drainage of methane gas, funded by British Coal, the ECSC and
the DTI investigated means for improving methane drainage in mines (IMC
Geophysics Ltd, Dec 1997) using horizontal drilling techniques. However, attempts to
install long boreholes at Harworth, Silverdale and Point of Ayr collieries all failed due
to geological difficulties.

No gas drainage was achieved during the project and it was concluded that present
technology for drilling steered and near-horizontal wells from within UK mines is
generally not capable of producing reliable and repeatable progress.

There have been further developments in guided drilling technology since this work
was completed and so the above conclusion should be re-tested.

Goaf Drainage from the Worked Horizon

Direct drainage of gas from the goaf can be achieved from pipes laid in the return
roadway of a retreat face and left open at the face start line, from pipes inserted through
stoppings erected at the return end of the face or in crosscuts driven from a parallel
roadway. These methods are not usually particularly efficient, high drainage capacities
are required and the captured gas can be of too low a purity for utilisation. The method
may be adequate where gas emissions are relatively low. High flows and purities are
obtained using this method of capture in some mines in China where thick seams are

4.6 Recent Developments

Guided drilling technology has been developed and applied successfully in the USA
and Australia for drilling underground horizontal in-seam boreholes. The systems are
relatively simple and robust. The trajectory of the borehole is estimated in advance of
drilling and down-hole measurements of the bit location are taken to confirm its
location. In most applications detailed information on the seam thickness and dip will
be known. There are a small number of companies in Australia and the USA who
specialise in the underground drilling of guided longholes and they appear keen to
evaluate their technology in other countries.

In Australia about 500,000m of underground horizontal in-seam boreholes have been

drilled using the AMT DDM MECCA steering tool. However, others options are
available for surface to in-seam boreholes. Lucas Drilling is in the process of
establishing capabilities to drill boreholes up to 2km in coal.

Surface to in-seam guided drilling has apparently achieved some success in the USA
for pre-drainage ahead of mining. As the gas is produced from virgin seams, it is
considered a VCBM operation (see Section 3).

Included in the Australian Coal Association Research Programme (ACARP) has been a
project at German Creek Mine, Central Colliery in Queensland to apply hydraulic
fracturing techniques to small-diameter in-seam gas drainage boreholes in coal mines.
The first trial was unsuccessful and no further funding has been allocated2.

4.7 The General CMM Situation

Collieries in many countries are draining methane for safety reasons and various
international assistance programmes are encouraging greater use of the methane to
reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Most of the CMM projects concentrate effort on
surface utilisation installations and sometimes neglect to invest in underground drilling
and gas monitoring equipment, training and management. High standards of design,
planning, installation, operation and maintenance together with management commitment,
experience and workforce training are essential elements of any successful mine gas
drainage scheme. The UK Health and Safety Executive have recently published guidance
to promote effective methane drainage management (Creedy, 2001).


The key features of a successful CMM utilisation scheme are:
• an existing, well-managed gas drainage system
• sustainability of coal production and gas capture
• availability of gas from production and non production sources
• suitable infrastructure to enable on site use of gas or electrical power
• commitment of management to CBM extraction and use.

The UK has developed gas drainage techniques and technologies which are applicable
in many of the deep mining countries of the world and new CMM projects will create
opportunities for equipment manufacturers and suppliers.

A fundamental problem of CMM projects is financing. Many projects are too small to
attract international investors and many coal-mining companies have limited funds at
their disposal. However, successful CMM schemes have been developed and operated
by third party energy supply companies.

Gas use options are constrained by variability of CMM flow and purity and the
proximity of suitable customers. On-site power generation for mine use may be
feasible at many remote locations.

Collieries should consider themselves as energy producers and include CMM

utilisation in their general production strategy.


5.1 Introduction

AMM schemes aim to recover the gas left behind in unmined coal which has been
disturbed by total extraction methods of mining such as longwall.

Methane and other gases are often vented from abandoned mines in the UK to prevent
the build-up of underground pressures which could lead to uncontrolled seepages of
hazardous gas into the ground and surface structures. The vents, usually installed in
shaft or drift seals, provide access for gas extraction. Where no suitable vents are
available boreholes can be drilled into mine galleries to access the gas. Not all closed
mines contain significant quantities of methane. Some mines which have worked coals
with low gas contents (eg less than 1m3 t-1) emit mixtures of de-oxygenated air and
carbon dioxide (blackdamp).

AMM extraction schemes are environmentally beneficial in that use is made of energy
that would otherwise be wasted, the risk of uncontrolled emissions at the surface is
reduced and greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere are lowered. Planning and
regulatory authorities, therefore, tend to view schemes favourably.

AMM is suitable either for direct use in engines for power generation or for
transmission by a dedicated pipeline to a consumer for combustion in boilers. AMM
projects in the UK involve schemes ranging from 3MWe to 10MWe equivalent with

average project lives varying from 10 to in excess of 20 years based on a conservative
gas reserve estimation methodology.

The exploitation AMM is not a new concept. In the past, gas from closed mines has
been used to supply a single industrial customer or fed into a mine gas grid.
Conventional mine gas drainage equipment was employed rather than the cost
effective, purposed designed systems developed by present day operators of AMM

In Belgium, gas extraction was sometimes continued after mine closure until equipment
fell into disrepair and interest was lost. The final gas drainage scheme closed around
1993 when the last mining engineer left to operate the pumps retired, 25 years after the
closure of the colliery in 1968 (Dusar, 2001). Other extraction schemes were closed
due to flooding of the workings, partial collapse of a shaft and damage to pipes, loss of
customers for the gas and sale of gas storage facilities. A press article on the release of
explosive gases prompted the state mining authority to have the remaining pipes

In the Pas-de-Calais region of northern France mine gas has been injected into the
Artois high-pressure natural gas pipeline since May 1990. A 20-year contract provides
for the extraction of at least 440x106kWh of gas a year. Gas recovery has apparently
exceeded expectations, with gas being drawn from extensive abandoned workings even
where separated by unmined coal pillars.

Gas has been produced from abandoned mine shafts in the Saar for many years.
Hangard (closed 1959), Kohlwald and Sinnerthal produce about 51x106m3 per year of
which 92% is used by industry. The gas is distributed by a local pipeline network
linking working and closed mines.

A guaranteed price of 0.15DM kWh-1 to SME’s arising from the recently acquired
‘renewable’ status of AMM in Germany has prompted considerable interest in the
exploitation of the gas for use in CHP schemes. About 80 proposals have been
submitted to mining authorities in Northrhine-Westfalia (Gerling, 2001). Apparently
mobile heat and power generators are to be used.

The effect of minewater recovery is critical. Gas cannot be extracted in commercial

quantities from waterlogged workings. To pump out a mine solely to facilitate testing
with no certainty of commercial gas production would be considered high risk and too
costly an option to pursue at most sites. Account must, therefore, be taken of
minewater flows in estimating potentially recoverable gas. Preferred sites are those
where minewater recovery rates are low. However, de-watering may be continued at
recently closed mines to prevent the abandoned mine gas reservoir flooding in the first

The limitation on gas extraction rate, in most instances, is determined by the resistance
of the access to the mine workings (unfilled shaft, filled shaft, adit or borehole), and the
quality of gas depends strongly on the sealing of the surface access to prevent air

The key features of a successful AMM scheme are:

• An extensive area of interconnected abandoned workings
• A large coal volume in unmined seams de-stressed by under and overworkings
• Significant residual methane in the unmined coal seams
• Minimal water ingress with little or no ‘ponding’ in main roadways
• Unfilled shaft or drift from which gas can be extracted
• No connections to shallow outcrop workings so no air in-leakage
• Local market for gas

AMM schemes can be commercially attractive due to their rapid payback and high
return potential compared with other types of CBM projects. A competitive pricing
policy can persuade initially hesitant customers to enter into a commitment to use

5.2 AMM Reservoirs

Coal is the primary source of methane in an abandoned mine. The methane found in
old goaf areas (worked-out longwall panels), roadways and shafts will also have
originated from primary coal seam sources. The precise origin of any produced AMM
will be indeterminate and therefore the whole mine complex and its associated fracture
systems can be considered to form a boundary to the reservoir. The gas reservoir
comprises all the coal in strata disturbed by mining which is likely to emit significant
quantities of gas into the workings. British Coal Corporation research indicates that
coal seams up to 150m to 200m above a longwall coalface and 50m to 70m below are
de-stressed. The reduction in stress results in the creation and relaxation of fractures,
and thus greatly increases the permeability of the Coal Measures (including the coal
seams) surrounding the extracted seam.

Underground roadways provide the means of transmitting suction pressure from the
surface pumps to the primary gas reservoirs. Suction is needed to generate pressure
gradients and maintain flows of gas from the coal. The gas production process will
therefore largely rely on gas desorbing from primary coal seam sources entering goaf
areas and gas extraction pumps drawing leakage gas through a multiplicity of
stoppings; only small leakages from a large number of stoppings may be needed to
maintain a production flow. At the low flow rates required, pressure losses across
stoppings are insignificant. In some instances, the effectiveness of gas extraction could
be compromised where there are fresh air leakages into the mine workings through
imperfectly sealed surface entries. These problems would normally be identified and
remedied at an early stage of the project.

The worst case effect of an air leakage is dilution of the produced gas to an
unacceptably low calorific value. An important part of site preparation is to identify
and treat air leakages between ostensibly sealed mine entries and the surface

In mines that have been abandoned for some years prior to installation of a gas
extraction system, minewater may have accumulated in some goaf areas and displaced
methane into roadways and shallower seam workings. The displaced gas may be
accessible for production and, if pressurised may initially enable high flow rates to be

Once a goaf area has been flooded, the associated primary gas sources can no longer
release gas into the workings. The resource is not lost but de-watering will be required
before desorption processes can be re-established. However, any gas that has
accumulated prior to flooding will be displaced and hence could be recoverable. In
some instances, gas in fracture space within the strata may also be compressed and
forced into voids at a higher level.

The most important feature of a productive reservoir is probably the extent of

interconnected, dry workings, and hence the physical volume of the reservoir, rather
than gas content. Initial testing at some low gas content but extensive mines indicates
high gas flows can be achieved. The situation is analogous to the high VCBM
production potential of the highly permeable but low gas content coals of the Powder
River Basin in the USA.

Reservoir characteristics are determined from monitoring and pumping tests undertaken
at the exploration stage.

An indication of the underground volume of mine workings with mine gas vents can be
obtained from passive tests by:
• monitoring the quantity of air that passes in through the vent during times of low
barometric pressure and of mine gas that passes out through the vent at times of
high barometric pressure, or
• by a calculation based on the outflow under constant barometric pressure (cf.
Massen, Dusar, Loy & Vandenberghe, 1998).

Active testing involves connecting a portable pump, vent stack and flare to an
abandoned mine vent. Gas composition and system pressure are measured for a range
of flow rates. An increase of oxygen as flow rate increases indicates fresh air is being
drawn into the system and a need for surface remedial measures. A rapid decrease in
pressure may indicate a ‘tight’ connection to the reservoir or a depleted reservoir.

5.3 Effect of Water Ingress

Coal mines may suffer from water ingress for a variety of reasons. Surface water, or
water contained in overlying strata or adjacent abandoned mines, leaks in to the mine
and is pumped out. After abandonment, if water pumping operations in the mine cease,
there will be a gradual flooding of the abandoned mine workings up to some surface
outflow level (not necessarily the top of the mine workings) or the level of an outflow
into another adjacent mine. This is known as minewater rebound or recovery. In the
UK, this is commonly the result of water entering from the surface or other mines
rather than water rising through porous and permeable rocks in the Measures
themselves. The rate of minewater rebound may be highly variable. It depends on the
rate of recharge and the underground volume of the workings.

Whilst it is technically possible both to de-water mines and to extract dissolved

methane from water by pumping it to the surface, this is likely to be uneconomic. Thus
the level of water in an abandoned mine is likely to be a very important constraint on

mine methane prospectivity. This may also mean that there is a limited ‘window of
opportunity’ to exploit CMM from many UK mines, before they become flooded.

In some of the smaller UK coalfields, for example the Forest of Dean coalfield, the best
seams are completely exhausted. Minewater drainage studies (Aldous, Smart & Black,
1986) have shown that there is relatively good underground connection between the
major workings throughout the entire coalfield. Furthermore it is known that water is
emerging from free drainage levels installed from the mines to the ground surface. In
such areas it can be said with a high degree of confidence that all the workings below
the free drainage level are flooded. However, in the larger coalfields the situation is
much more variable. Company mergers and the integration of previously separated
colliery ‘takes’ since nationalisation in 1947, have resulted in the establishment of
large, pervasively connected units of underground workings in many coalfields (Burke
& Younger, 2000). In mining hydrogeology, these are commonly known as ‘ponds’.

As minewater levels recover, the water level in each block will be controlled by
gravity, but the filling of different parts of the workings will be determined by the
levels of the connections between them. Within each pond there is sometimes some
information on water inflow, provided by known pumping rates when the mines were
operative. Individual ponds may be connected to other ponds, by one or more known
or unknown connections such as a drift or roadway. The water levels in the whole
system or, more commonly, systems, are ultimately determined by the levels of the
connections between the individual ponds and between the ponds and the ground

5.4 Environmental Benefits

Gas is vented from some abandoned mines to prevent the build-up of underground
pressures which could lead to uncontrolled emissions at the surface. Mine gas
utilisation schemes are viewed as environmentally beneficial because they reduce the
risk of uncontrolled gas leakage and surface emissions and also due to their
contribution to reduction of greenhouse gas emissions (methane is substantially more
potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas).

Judicious choice of sites, detailed consultation with local authorities, attention to local
noise sensitivity and the relatively small scale of operations tend to remove most, if not
all, concerns raised by local authorities. Condensate water recovered from the gas can
be piped back into the mineworkings.

The conditions of AMM sites have usually to be substantially improved to

accommodate the production equipment and to raise the quality of mine entry seals.
The landowner benefits from these environmental improvements and is therefore
unlikely to present any obstacles on termination of gas extraction.

5.5 Production Equipment

Equipment used at operating sites generally involves well-proven standard technology,

similar to that used in landfill gas utilisation schemes or natural gas distribution.
Remote monitoring and control systems allow efficient operation with the minimum of
attention. A modularised site layout allows major capital items to be re-located when a

site becomes exhausted or when production capacity is reduced as a gas reservoir
becomes depleted.

5.6 Safety

AMM is flammable when allowed to mix with air. However, the risk of a fire or an
explosion occurring at an extraction site is very low. The extracted gas is non-
flammable due to its low oxygen content when contained within a pipe. The risk of
flammable gas accumulation is controlled by monitoring the oxygen content of the
extracted gas, use of high quality pipework and incorporation of non-return, isolation
and slam-shut valves in the gas plant. Buildings and enclosures are adequately
ventilated and also monitored with flammable gas detectors. Ignition risks on the plant
are controlled by use of suitably protected electrical equipment. Flame traps would halt
the propagation of a flame in the unlikely event of an ignition within pipework. Safety
on the delivery side can be assured by the use of dedicated pipelines installed to current
best practice standards. An odorant added to pipeline gas will enable leaks to be
detected readily.

5.7 Estimating AMM Resources and Reserves

The procedure generally involves identifying unmined coal which has been disturbed by
underworking, empirically estimating residual gas contents and calculating the volume of
gas associated with the remnant coal. The process is fairly mechanical but some
judgement is required to accommodate geological detail. The void volume in the
worked-out seams is estimated as a proportion of the extraction height and an allowance
made for the degree of extraction. As the gas originates in the coal, the magnitude of the
void volume is not relevant to the quantification of the gas resource. However, the void
space is important as a conduit for collecting gas, for transmission of suction pressure and
also as a receptor for water inflow which will progressively reduce the magnitude of the
accessible reservoir.

The effect of minewater recovery is critical. One approach to recoverable reserve

estimation is to take account of this effect by reducing recoverable gas in proportion to
the volume of void filled by water.

Mine water pumping records prior to closure provide an indication of likely water
inflow but the sealing of mine entries and removal of surface water connections may
attenuate this value. Groundwater studies can arrive at an apparently correct water
level scenario by a fortuitous combination of void volume and water inflow rate
although the magnitudes of both values could be too high.

Due to the extensive nature of the mineworkings, additional links to other collieries
may exist which could extend the reserve life. However, reserve estimates for a project
should only consider gas within the area of the Petroleum Exploration and
Development Licence (PEDL), whereas in practice gas could be drawn from workings
that continue beyond this artificial boundary. If there are no operators in the adjoining
blocks, an operator could benefit from this bonus gas through ‘right of capture’.
Otherwise, a unitisation approach may be needed. Appropriate protocols are
understood to have been established by the oil and gas industry.

Project duration is estimated by dividing the predicted gas volume by the combined
sum of the gas quantity produced per year plus the estimated volume of gas trapped by
flooding per year. The volume of gas that cannot be recovered due to rising water is
obtained by reducing the volume of available methane in proportion to the inflow of
water. The technology is too young for a record of project lives to be established but
expectations are for durations from 10 to 20 years or more.

5.8 Enhancement of Gas Recovery

There may be opportunities to advance the current technology and enhance gas
recovery from abandoned mine gas reservoirs. The possibilities include:
• Hydraulic stimulation of unworked seams above goafs to increase the release rate
of residual gas
• Stimulation and carbon dioxide injection (carbon dioxide is preferentially adsorbed
on coal displacing methane)
• Mine de-watering to access previously flooded, deep, gassy workings.

Drilling techniques could be used to:

• Connect workings to aid minewater drainage away from prime production zones
• Link adjoining mines where workings interleave but do not directly connect
• Improve underground cross-measures connectivity (and hence transmission of
suction pressure) within a particular mine complex.

5.9 Development of New Projects

The critical path elements in starting new sites are identification of a customer and
completion of either the utilisation facility or the delivery pipeline. Investment costs
can be minimised by modularising equipment to allow just-in-time installation and easy
transfer of existing equipment from exhausted sites to new sites. The major capital
costs could include improving surface sealing of shafts and drifts, gas extraction and
cleaning equipment, preparation of access to the mine and gas transport to remote
consumers or grid connections.

Over time, as gas is produced, reservoir pressure will decline necessitating more
pumping effort to maintain flow. Eventually, the pumps will no longer be able to
maintain the required gas flow rate and a lower steady production flow will have to be
accepted. A further step reduction may be required again at a later date and so on until
the operation becomes financially unattractive.


6.1 Introduction

The various options available for CBM use include electrical power generation, on-site
use in boilers and space heating, local low pressure pipeline supply to industry or domestic
consumers and injection into high pressure national distribution pipelines.

Techniques for enriching CBM are available but these may have limited application in the
UK due to plentiful natural gas supplies. The principal use of CBM (AMM, CMM, or
VCBM) in the UK is as a competitive low cost fuel for industrial burners or small-scale
power generation.

A commercially feasible CBM utilisation project must have a gas supply and customer for
gas use or for electrical power generation. A long-term supply contract is desirable. The
cost of supplying CBM needs to be competitive with other fuels in the energy market, in
particular it should be competitive with clean fuels such as natural gas and renewables.
Factors such as local and national energy prices, gas and electrical supply arrangements
and grid connections, existing infrastructure, regulation, planning, environmental and
access will determine whether a CBM scheme is practicable.

A CBM utilisation scheme can involve the extraction and use of gas from either a single
source (working mines, abandoned mines and virgin seams) or a mixture from different
sources. Multiple sources offer benefits in terms of improved security of gas supply and
opportunities for controlling and maintaining desired gas purity.

Irrespective of the end use, most CBM schemes will require gas to be delivered within
specified flow rates and purities. Management of a scheme will require a real time
understanding of changes to gas composition and flow. Such changes may affect the
end-use options and ultimately gas sales and revenue. There must be a reliable method
of measuring energy supplied. Heating value (adjusted to moisture free, standard
temperature and pressure conditions) is the internationally preferred measurement

6.2 Markets

Conventional natural gas prices include transmission costs which depend on the
distance, and type of terrain, between the producing well and consumers. A CBM
operator seeks to obtain the most advantageous price for the gas at the lowest cost. The
cost of conveying the gas to the consumer is therefore a critical issue. The options for
disposing of the gas are:
• inject into an existing pipeline;
• construct a pipeline to a nearby consumer;
• generate and sell electricity.

An option may be to connect to an existing natural gas pipeline where a pipeline passes
close to the CBM field and where there are no potential consumers in the immediate
neighbourhood. The equipment and software necessary to control the quality, pressure

and quantity of gas input can be costly but this disadvantage may be partially offset if
gas sales can be initiated earlier in a project than would otherwise be possible.

Site selection and development of a CBM scheme depends on several factors with
market conditions and end use options influenced by:
• rates of gas production
• gas reserves
• direct or indirect market for gas
• contract conditions; length of supply, gas availability, back up fuel source
• capital and operating costs
• availability and cost of alternative fuels
• existing energy distribution infrastructure
• government support
• environmental, planning and regulations.

Pipeline Transport for Direct Use of CBM

Market factors influencing the selection and design of a scheme are:

• gas compression costs for direct injection into a high-pressure distribution pipe
network and permissible gas compositions
• proximity of existing pipelines and the need to construct a pipe network
• maintaining minimum gas specification over the supply period
• access to alternative fuel source for gas enrichment or back-up supply
• access, control and regulation of gas supply to gas grid
• availability and need for on-site or down stream gas storage facilities
• presence of local industry
• land access for pipe network or storage.

Electrical Power Generation

The gas may be usable at, or near, the production site to generate electricity. Options
for the use of CBM to generate electrical power typically include reciprocating engines
and gas turbines. Market factors will influence the ability to generate, use and export
electricity, namely:
• the location, capacity and rating of existing electrical distribution infrastructure
• access and connection charges from the point of generation to the supply grid
• costs associated with metering and control to export generated power
• power requirements of on-site user
• capacity of on-site infrastructure
• land and access requirements

• on-site or local use for waste heat generated.

Fundamental to the commercial success of a CBM utilisation scheme is the ability to

identify a reliable, long-term customer. Once a potential customer is identified,
consideration is needed of the infrastructure requirements and costs to transport and
deliver the energy. The need to maintain gas purity and flow may incur additional
capital and operational expense in the form of enrichment and storage requirements.

Ultimately the success of a CBM utilisation scheme will depend on the ability to
compete with other fuel sources within the market place. Local and regional variations
are likely to exist which may be influenced by government support. The success of
CBM will depend on:
• availability, quality and rates of gas production
• end user markets and specification
• cost and availability of alternative fuels
• capital and operational costs.

6.3 CBM Use

The principal mine gas utilisation driver is global environment concern. Prior to
recognition of the implications of increasing greenhouse gas emissions into the
atmosphere, there were relatively few commercial mine gas schemes in operation. Mine
gas utilisation schemes are now being encouraged and assisted in developing countries by
governments and international aid agencies including Japanese ‘green’ aid, World Bank
Global Environment Fund and the USEPA.

The typical characteristics of CBM from unmined coal, working mines (drained gas
and ventilation air) and abandoned mines are shown in Table 8 and the principal uses
are shown in Table 9.

CMM is either used on-site (Table 10) or transported by a local distributed pipeline to
an industrial consumer. The CBM is either directly used (Table 11) or it may be
upgraded (Table 12) depending on the application. AMM could be exploited similarly.

Technologies for removing and using low concentrations of methane in ventilation air
(Table 13) are being developed in some of the advanced countries to reduce a further
major source of greenhouse gas emissions. For widespread commercial application of
the technologies, revenue from gas or energy sales, perhaps supplemented by a carbon
credit, must provide a respectable return on investment, Governments can assist by
reducing tax burdens, or by providing soft loans or some other form of environmentally
linked incentives.

The USEPA technical options series of internet publications describes a range of

proven and emerging technologies for using coal mine methane, applicable to both
gases from working and abandoned mines3.

Further details can be found at

The technologies are classified according to applications:
• Electricity production
• On-site heat production
• Pipeline gas
• Product feed stock
• Boilers.

Some applications are not particularly relevant to the UK, such as the use of CMM to
fuel a desalination plant, as at Morcinek mine, Poland. Others simply consider CMM
as a substitute for natural gas or coke oven gas eg for injecting a supplemental fuel into
blast furnaces. Many of the applications are likely to be financially marginal, or
possibly even uneconomic, without emissions reduction credits. CMM has been used
in industrial boilers in the UK for many years although many of the schemes no longer
exist due to the demise of the associated collieries. However, at least one AMM
scheme in the UK is supplying fuel for boilers, the benefit to the consumer being a
lower fuel cost than distributed natural gas. CMM can be co-fired with other fuels and
the UK company Hamworthy Combustion produces burners and control systems
suitable for such applications.

Electricity Generation Using Reciprocating Engines

Modern spark ignition engines with electronic engine and fuel management systems
have proved eminently suitable for generating electricity using CMM or AMM as a
fuel. Suitable engines are manufactured by Caterpillar, Deutz, Wartsila and Jenbacher.
Experience of all the makes of engines has been gained in the UK in both landfill gas
and CBM power generation schemes. Gas turbines appear to be currently out of
favour. The world’s largest CMM power generation schemes using reciprocating
engines are located at Appin and Tower collieries in Australia, where there are a total
of 94 generator sets. About half of the total mines emissions are used. A peak capacity
of 94MWe can be achieved of which 4-10MWe is used by the mine, the rest is supplied
to the local distribution company. To ensure consistent quality and quantity, natural
gas is added when necessary implying shortfalls of mine gas may arise.

Electricity Generation Using Gas Turbines

CMM and AMM can be used for electricity generation in either reciprocating engines
or gas turbines. The former is preferred in the UK due to their higher efficiency and
lower cost of ownership. However, developments in gas turbine technology are
resulting in improved efficiencies, longer service life and lower maintenance costs.
Turbines from 500kW to 25MW are available capable of using gas of 35-75% methane
concentration. Installed costs range from US$650-1000 kWh-1. It should be noted that
the USEPA CBM Outreach Program information on the web pages seriously
understates the efficiencies of internal combustion engines in making comparisons.
Gas turbine manufacturers, specifications and prices can be found on the internet site4.


Research is currently being undertaken by a private company to develop a turbine
capable of operating on ultra lean methane mixtures, possibly as low as 1%. The aim
would be to use ventilation air enriched with drained methane.

Electricity Generation Using Micro-turbines

The micro turbine is a new technology developed from the aerospace industry consisting
of an air-cooled turbine, generator and compressor on a single shaft with floating air
bearings eliminating the need for lubricants. Generating capacity can be sized from
30kW to 2MW by integrating multiple units. Efficiencies are low at 22-30% compared
with reciprocating engines, but the rating could be improved by using waste exhaust heat.
Natural gas, diesel, petrol or fuel oil can be used as a backup fuel. Installed costs are
expected to range from US$350-700 kW-1. The envisaged application would be
generation of on-site or localised power needs in remote areas.

Combined Heat and Power

Combined heat and power (CHP) plants have traditionally been used in Europe to
produce heat and power for adjoining residential and commercial complexes. The
Zofiowka mine in Poland used CMM to fuel a CHP plant which supplies heat and
power both to the mine and to the nearby town of Jastrzebie. AMM power generation
schemes in the UK produce useful electricity but almost half of the energy produced
from the gas is rejected as heat for which no application can be found. There needs to
be a customer near to the plant to facilitate use of the thermal energy. Possibilities such
as supplying greenhouses have been considered but no customers were forthcoming.

Fuel Cells

Commercially available phosphoric-acid fuel cells (PAFC’s) can operate on natural gas
or CMM. Installations are available that could produce from 200kW to 11MW at 40%
efficiency. Molten-carbonate fuel cells (MCFC’s) are smaller than PAFC’s and
potentially more efficient. The US Department of Energy (USDOE) plan to test
MCFC’s using coal mine gas. The advantages of fuel cells are higher efficiencies and
lower emissions than turbines. Typical approximate capital costs are US$2000-000
kW-1 for PAFC’s and half that for MCFC’s with operating costs at US$0.0017 kWh-1.
The technology is evolving rapidly and costs are expected to decrease. This technology
has not yet been considered for CBM applications in the UK.

Production of Liquefied Natural Gas

Small scale, portable plant is now available which is capable of using CMM and AMM
to produce liquefied natural gas (LNG). These units use acoustic power to compress
and expand helium, dissipating heat through exchangers. Outputs range from less than
10 (45 litres) to several 100 gallons (455 litres) per day. A larger unit using a different
acoustic drive technology is planned that will produce 10,000-12,000 gallons (4,500
litres) of LNG per day at around 80% efficiency. The largest market for LNG is
electricity power plants but it is becoming increasingly popular as a clean fuel for road
vehicles. In North America LNG is also used for seasonal gas storage.

Methanol Production

Methanol is a key chemical product used in the manufacture of formaldehyde resins,

acetic acid and vehicle fuels. CMM or AMM could be used to fuel methanol plants
provided the gas can be delivered at a price below that of natural gas. Methane of at
least 89% purity is required so CMM enrichment may be necessary, although some
high quality AMM sources could be suitable without treatment. The manufacture of
methanol involves a three-stage process. The first stage technology for converting
methane to syngas can be costly although new technologies which may be more cost
effective are being developed. A catalytic process converts syngas to crude methanol
(Stage 2) which is then purified by distillation (Stage 3).

Production of Synthetic Fuels

Synthetic fuels are more easily transported than gas which requires a pipeline and
hence offer attractions for remote CMM or AMM sites. Mine gas of less than 80%
purity can be used. Synthetic fuels are environmentally superior to conventional
petroleum products but the cost of manufacture is relatively high. However, new
catalyst developments have reduced the technology costs and methane conversion
plants using the Fishcher-Tropsch process of less than 5,000 barrels per day (955,000
litres) may be commercially viable with a low cost feedstock gas. The USDOE is
working with Air Products and Chemicals Inc to develop a ceramic membrane that
could reduce gas conversion costs by 50%. Currently, Syntroleum Corporation uses a
proprietary catalyst that allows up to 30% nitrogen and carbon dioxide in the feedstock
gas. The product is suitable for upgrading diesel fuels to meet stringent environmental
emission standards and demand is likely to grow world-wide.

Gas Enrichment

Various enrichment processes for medium quality mine gases have been examined.
BOC have demonstrated a pressure swing adsorption (PSA) process applied to goaf gas
but in order to achieve the desired quality it was necessary to use feed rates lower than
the normal rating of the plant. NorthWest Fuel Development Inc have successfully
demonstrated PSA and continuous PSA nitrogen rejection units at the abandoned
Nelms mine, Ohio, USA. Typical feed flows range from 1-6000cfd (28-170m3 d-1).

Medium quality CMM and AMM can be upgraded by mixing with LPG, VCBM or
natural gas to satisfy a particular consumers specification. The gas may also have to be

dried if it is to meet a pipeline standard, and also have oxygen removed.
Deoxygenation is relatively costly with a capital requirement of less than US$450,000
to treat a mine gas flow of about 1000l s-1.

Enrichment only becomes commercially feasible if the product can be supplied to a

consumer at a lower price than an alternative fuel. Possible applications would be
enriching CMM or AMM to allow injection into a natural gas pipeline or to produce
high purity gas as a chemical feedstock.

Coal Drying

CMM is used for coal drying in coal preparation plants in many parts of the world
including Poland, Russia and the USA. Existing coal-fired thermal dryers can be
modified to accommodate gas burners. The benefit of coal drying is enhanced value of
the coal – higher heat value, reduced transportation costs and easier handling.

The drying of 380 short tons per hour of coal at 3% moisture would require about 1200l
s-1 of methane.

Shaft and Ventilation Heating

Another direct on-site use for CMM is for heating ventilation air to increase worker
comfort and prevent hazardous ice accumulations in shafts in cold climates. The
benefit is a saving on imported fuel costs or, if previously coal fired, increased
availability of coal for sale.

Use of Mine Ventilation Air

Mine ventilation air can be used as combustion air in reciprocating engines to increase
fuel availability as has been successfully demonstrated at Appin colliery in Australia.
Electrically powered vacuum pumps draw up to 65m3 s-1 of air containing 0.5-1%
methane from the upcast shaft, through a filtration unit to remove particulates and pipes
the gas to the engine intake manifolds.

Ventilation air could be used similarly in gas turbines. Depending on conditions, air
containing 0.5% methane could supply 4-12% of a turbine’s energy requirements.

The above process will only use a proportion of the mine ventilation air. An approach
to total removal of methane from the exhausted ventilation air could be made using
oxidation technologies, thus achieving the ultimate goal of zero greenhouse gas
emissions from underground mining operations.

The principal of removal of volatile organic compounds from industrial emissions by

use of oxidation devices is well proven. Useful thermal energy can be recovered.
There are two basic processes for oxidising methane; thermal and catalytic.

The two most promising technologies are the:
• Regenerative thermal oxidiser
• Reverse-flow catalytic oxidiser

The regenerative thermal oxidiser (or thermal flow reversal reactor) consists of porous
bed of high heat capacity material through which ventilation air is passed. The flow
direction is reversed at intervals to allow pre-heating of the incoming air and to
maintain the high temperature zone in the centre of the bed at a temperature greater
than 1000ºC. Useful heat can be recovered through a heat transfer system. These
systems are self-sustaining with air feeds containing as little as 0.1% methane.
MEGTEC Systems (Sweden) have designed modular units that could be used at a mine
site but no full-scale trial has been undertaken.

Catalytic devices operate at lower temperatures than thermal systems (500-800ºC) and
involve a burner and a catalyst bed. A reverse flow facility allows heat to be stored
either side of the catalyst ensuring full methane conversion and high heat recovery. A
device has been demonstrated at pilot plant scale in Canada where development is
taking place but proposals for a mine site trial were abandoned when the mine closed
prematurely. The concept was promoted by CANMET and developed by National
Resources, Canada.

The commercial viability of whole mine air treatment is likely to be marginal even with
efficient energy recovery. However, emission credits, or the threat of environmental
penalties, could drive this technology to the operational stage.

Flaring CMM

Flaring is not strictly a commercial use of CMM but supported by emission credits it
could represent a net zero cost environmental solution.

Shell Coal have installed a methane flaring facility at Central Colliery (German Creek
Mine) in Queensland’s Bowen Basin (Greenwood, 1999). The aim was to provide an
immediate reduction in emissions and a facility to burn excess gas in the event of any
subsequent utilisation development. The flare capacity of 4,200m3 per hour is similar
to that of the drainage plant. The system is remotely monitored and is protected by
flame traps, extinguishers and also cut-outs in the event of high oxygen, excess flow,
low water in the separator seal or unusually high or low pressures. The 20m tall flare
has a continuous pilot flame to ensure combustion of all gases and is shrouded against
the effects of high surface winds. In the event of a blockage or failure, the gas is
diverted to the original free venting stacks. Similar technology is being promoted by
the USEPA. Widespread adoption of this technology could result in rapid reductions in
greenhouse gas emissions being achieved. Suitable incentives are now needed to
encourage mining companies to install flares where utilisation is not financially feasible
due to capital costs and inadequate markets.

6.4 USA Government R&D

Various programmes have been implemented in the USA to introduce and demonstrate
alternative methods for capturing and using methane from underground coal mines with
the aim of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The USDOE’s Coal Mine Methane Recovery and Utilisation Program (Byrer et al,
2000) aims to encourage better use of a valuable energy source that would otherwise be
wasted by venting to the atmosphere.

Technologies for CMM enrichment, using mine ventilation air in engines and boilers
and for co-firing were included in the CMM R&D programme initiated in 1992.

As part of the October 1993 Climate Change Action Plan and its goal of reducing
greenhouse gas emissions, the USDOE and the USEPA are supporting:
• a Coalbed Methane Outreach Program
• cost shared demonstrations of innovative technologies
• projects to evaluate and apply innovative and existing technologies for capturing
and using CMM.

The USDOE can provide will provide up to 50% of the R&D funds for these projects,
the remainder coming from the private sector. Targets for the fiscal years 2001–2003
(Byrer et al, 2000) include:
• Demonstration and evaluation of pilot scale technologies at a selected mine site.
• Demonstration CMM utilisation with fuel cells, gas turbine, internal combustion
engine or other technologies.
• Commercialisation of CMM recovery and utilisation technologies.

6.5 Relevance of New Utilisation Technologies to the UK

New utilisation technologies are only of commercial interest if the use of CMM or
AMM results in a distinct market advantage. Such advantages may be rare and
therefore the most common scenario is for the gas to be sold to existing industrial
plants that happen to be close to the source, or for the gas to be used on-site to produce
electricity that can easily be distributed. Once emissions trading becomes established,
a greater range of utilisation options may become financially attractive.

AMM production technology in the UK has the potential to supply individual small
customers with gas from a borehole located on their premises. While most applications
may involve boilers, there could be interest in the use of fuel cells and micro turbines
for power generation.

Expansion of CMM use in the UK is likely to mainly feature power generation

satisfying mines power requirements as a first priority. Any sales of gas off site will be
opportunistic. Blending of CMM and AMM sources may be feasible in some instances
where high fuel demands need to be satisfied and security of supply needs to be


7.1 Introduction

The UK has a long history of CMM exploitation and has seen a rapid growth in the
extraction and use of AMM in the past few years. VCBM exploration started in 1992.
Delays caused by CBM ownership wrangles were overcome when the gas was vested
in the Crown and incorporated in the petroleum licensing regime. Deregulation of the
electricity supply industry provided openings for small-scale power generation which
serves as the main customer for AMM.

Interest in CBM in the UK continues to grow as demonstrated by the take up of PEDL

areas under the latest 9th round submissions. Interest from organisations previously not
involved in CBM in the UK together with the successful flotation’s of Alkane Energy
and StrataGas, and funding support for Octagon Energy, indicate a growing confidence
from investors, especially in AMM projects. There is also evidence of a ready market
for embedded electrical power generation. However, costs of connection to the
national distribution grid remain high, affecting the financial viability of smaller

The success of CMM and AMM projects in a highly competitive energy market has
demonstrated to the energy industry and financial markets, the potential of small-scale
CBM schemes. A number of UK operators have been successful in raising funds to
develop projects. Partnerships between CBM operators and energy suppliers continue
to be developed strengthening the market for the extraction and use of CBM.

Increasing importance is given by government, industry and the public into measures to
reduce greenhouse gas emissions. CMM and AMM schemes can be shown to have a
significant environmental benefit in reducing greenhouse gas emissions but these
benefits have yet to be recognised in terms of incentives.

7.2 VCBM Exploration and Potential

A theoretical analysis of UK market conditions indicated that for a 30 well field

average well flows of 5,600-7000m3 d-1 may be needed for commercial viability
(Creedy, 1999). To date there is no evidence that such flows can be produced from UK
coal seams due to their apparently low permeability. Strong gas and electricity prices
combined with greatly reduced drilling and completion costs could enable lower gas
flows to be exploited. Economies of scale associated with the drilling of large numbers
of wells could be important but the fact that average well flows in the prolific Alabama
coalfields are around 3000m3 d-1 does not bode well.

Nevertheless, Evergreen Resources (UK) are applying their considerable experience

gained in the Raton basin in the USA combined with state-of-the-art drilling and
completion methods to evaluating the potential. Evergreen also imported its own
purpose-built drilling rig, fracture stimulation equipment and key personnel. The
company views the UK as an excellent opportunity for a long-term development
project, recognising the time and effort needed for experimentation. Evergreen have

completed a five-well pilot scheme near Chester and the results of testing are awaited
with interest.

Geomet, another USA based company, are now examining the potential for VCBM in
the UK.

7.3 Exploitation of CMM

Coal mines are major emitters of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. Methane mixed
with ventilation air is emitted from all underground mines. Currently, there are major
gas utilisation schemes at only two mines, Harworth (commissioned circa 1993) and
Tower (commissioned October 1999). In addition, there are boilers at three mines that
can burn methane. Eight other collieries bring captured methane to the surface but vent
most of the gas to the atmosphere, a small proportion being consumed in boilers at
three of the mines. Three collieries vent drained gas underground.

The gas contents of the seams being worked range from 0.01-15m3 t-1. The highest
specific emission is around 75m3 t-1 but this value arises at a mine with unusual gas
capture conditions.

The feasibility of new CMM projects has been studied by UK Coal Mining (formerly
RJB Mining). Four projects ranging from 2-3MWe have been proposed and
construction of the first scheme, 3MWe has commenced. Low firedamp drainage
captures and marginal purities for utilisation may need to be improved at some mines
before schemes are introduced. Any improvements would, however, be beneficial to
mining operations.

Estimations of current and projected mine gas use and availability can be made but the
results should be considered as indicative. In calculating gas requirements account
must be taken of drained gas that will be vented when utilisation equipment is
unavailable due to maintenance, and also because of variability in gas quality due to
underground operational activities.

The generation of 1MW electricity would require a flow of 69l s-1 methane (pure basis)
assuming a net conversion efficiency of 41% at a lower heating value for methane
enriched with ethane of 35.3MJ m-3. It is important to note that to achieve an overall
average of 1MWe output a higher gas flow would be required, the excess being vented
during planned and unplanned plant stoppages.

Gas drained at Harworth is typically of low purity due to the drainage methods being
used and therefore probably only about 30% of the net electricity generation, say
4.5MWe, is attributable to mine gas. Added to the Tower colliery scheme, the total
generation from mine gas in the UK is about 11MWe. Provided that the UK Coal
Mining schemes proceed, this capacity could be doubled in a few years time.

Total methane emissions from UK mines for the year 2000 are estimated by Wardell
Armstrong at 300x106m3, equivalent to about 0.2x106 tonnes methane for the year
2001, assuming a coal production of 20x106 tonnes and an average specific emission of
12.5m3 t-1 (ETSU, 1995). This specific emission value excludes emissions from coal in
transit. Of the total gas about 35% overall in the 81% of mines with drainage may be

capturable, ie 71x106m3. The gas used is some 3x106m3 in boilers and 24x106m3 in
power generation, leaving 44x106m3 of unused drained or potentially drainable gas.
The new UK Coal projects amounting to a total of about 10MWe should consume
22x106m3 leaving 22x106m3 as a target for future projects. The above estimates
suggest that currently 38% of the potentially capturable gas is used. Once the
additional UK Coal schemes are completed this could increase to 69%.

If sufficient high quality gas could be captured at Harworth colliery to meet the needs
of the utilisation plant a further 21x106m3 of methane could be consumed implying
close to 100% utilisation of potentially capturable gas. While these figures may have
large uncertainties it is clear that the proposals of UK Coal Mining, complemented by
an effort to maximise gas use at Harworth, could significantly reduce greenhouse gas
emissions using established technology.

Any improvements in methane drainage performance at mines can benefit utilisation.

A recently completed Health and Safety Executive (HSE) research project on Effective
Design and Management of Firedamp Drainage (Creedy, 2001) made recommendations
which, if implemented, may lead to more consistent drainage captures being achieved
in UK mines.

7.4 AMM Extraction

AMM schemes have to date been constructed on disused mine sites and reclamation
sites using the former mine entries as the access point to extract gas from the
underground workings. The access locations have been chosen as they provide a low
resistance connection at reasonable cost. As part of the site assessment process gas
pumping trials are undertaken at mine vent sites to determine the likely composition
and flow of gas that could be sustained and also to assess the degree of air leakage and
hence the need for remedial sealing work.

Case studies (see Appendix 6) have been gathered from some UK sites at which AMM
schemes have been developed to assist future operators avoid the engineering pitfalls
and to encourage the detailed consideration of possible AMM exploitation
requirements at mine closure.

AMM is used predominantly for electrical power generation although some is supplied
for burner tip use. Limited investigation involving drilling into abandoned workings
and old goaf areas has been carried out.

7.5 CBM Utilisation

Historically in the UK, local gas distribution grids linked to operational mines have
been operated successfully for many years, with gas supplied to local industry. Recent
schemes have focused on the generation of electrical power using gas turbines as part
of a CHP scheme, and spark ignition engines. Power generated is used for on-site
consumption and export to the grid. Gas continues to be used at mines in colliery

CBM in the UK is predominantly used in spark ignition engines for electrical power
generation. Significant advancements in the design, management and fuel control of

spark ignition gas engines have resulted in improved reliability and efficiency. Engine
availability of over 90% is guaranteed by manufacturers with a number of schemes
operating above this figure. All current CMM and AMM schemes using spark ignition
engines generate electrical power only and are not CHP schemes. Further use could be
made of thermal energy derived from waste heat from the generation units typically
equating to a similar value as that generated.

All the current electrical power generation schemes have the provision of a back-up
fuel supply to ensure power stations can be run continuously to minimise the payback
periods. As more confidence develops in the long-term viability of projects other
options to maximise revenue for the gas used may be considered. This could involve
using the gas only during peak demand periods, peak lopping, thus generating a high
rate of return for the same amount of gas used. The options to supply and use gas
should be addressed as part of any contractual arrangements.

Current CBM utilisation schemes in the UK are summarised in Table 14.

The design, management and contractual arrangements of CBM utilisation schemes

generally involve CBM operators either supplying and selling gas to a third party user,
or using the gas to generate electrical power and selling the electricity to second tier

Capital and maintenance costs to extract the gas and supply to a fixed flange point are
the responsibility of the CBM operator. Costs associated with its use, either direct or
for electrical power generation, are the responsibility of the user.

This difference in how CBM schemes are managed is demonstrated by examining the
business development strategies of two of the major PEDL holders; Alkane Energy and
Octagon Energy. Alkane Energy extract and sell the gas to a third party for either
direct use or electrical power generation. They presently have three abandoned mine
gas schemes operating with three different customers. De-regulation in the energy
market has seen a number of organisations, both small independent and larger energy
supply companies, become interested in local embedded generation schemes.

Octagon Energy have an exclusive agreement to sell electricity generated from their
abandoned mine gas schemes to Enron. This will involve the current Hickleton site
together with further sites to be developed by Octagon over the next 15 years. Enron
are prepared to invest £11.5 million in Octagon’s CBM activities. Octagon also have
an agreement with Deutz Energy who will supply up to 22 containerised generating
sets, each rated at 1.36MWe over a three year period starting in September 2000. Deutz
will be responsible for the complete operation and maintenance of the units for a period
of ten years. The cost for the supply of engines and maintenance is reported to be in
excess of £7.5 million.

7.6 Future CBM Development


There has been insufficient exploration and testing completed in the UK to determine
whether favourable VCBM reservoir conditions exist which could support commercial
production. The outcome of current and proposed further testing by Evergreen is awaited.


UK Coal, the largest deep mine operator in the UK, is examining the possibility of
expanding CMM utilisation at its collieries. Feasibility studies have been undertaken to
improve the use of gas captured from its working mines. Use of gas is likely to involve
on-site power generation using spark ignition engines.


A number of deep mines could close within the next few years. It is anticipated that the
commercial and environmental benefits of using AMM following abandonment will be
recognised and engineering measures taken on closure to maximise gas availability.
Measures could involve simple water control systems to prevent parts of the mine
becoming isolated and installation of pipework through well-constructed surface shaft
caps and stoppings.

The number of open mine shafts suitable for gas extraction is limited. One scheme is
successfully recovering gas from a filled shaft but tests on filled shafts elsewhere have
revealed very low fill permeability and problems of air in-leakage at shaft seals. Future
AMM projects will involve the use of drilling techniques, including deviated boreholes
from the surface, to access the workings. The use of such techniques will provide
flexibility in terms of access to the underground workings, surface location and also gas
availability at the point of end use. Schemes will be able to be located adjacent to the
customer. The success of large diameter boreholes connecting into workings has yet to
be demonstrated. Technology for accurately intersecting abandoned roadways without
causing major damage holds the key to the long-term expansion of abandoned mine gas

Details of projected CBM developments are summarised in Table 15.

Consultations with PEDL holders with CBM interests indicate that increased practical
government support to the CBM industry is needed in a number of specific areas,
notably planning, regulation of drilling activities and guidance where PEDL interests in
adjacent areas overlap. The development and implementation of guidance, using
accepted oil and gas industry practices of field development plans may be a way
forward on this latter point.

7.7 Regulation of CBM

The development of CBM is not solely dependent on the geology, engineering and market
conditions. In the UK CBM exploration and exploitation is permitted within a framework

of health and safety, environmental, licensing and planning legislation. The capture of
CBM in operational mines is undertaken for safety reasons and is permitted through a
methane drainage licence. The safety of gas drainage is regulated as part of the
underground mining operation in accordance with mining legislation.

The status of a methane drainage licence at mine closure is not clear especially when held
by a different party to the PEDL. Clarification is required to pre-empt any litigation
which could be costly and also damaging to the AMM industry.

Petroleum Licensing

CBM is owned by the Crown and its exploitation is regulated by the oil and gas licensing
division of the DTI. PEDL’s are required by operators to facilitate exploration, appraisal
and development from either virgin seams or abandoned mines. Most of the major
coalfield areas where there is a potential for CBM extraction and utilisation have been
licensed to commercial companies. Where progress is not attempted a PEDL may be
withdrawn and released to an alternative operator.

Access to Coal Seams

The Coal Authority is the owner of the coal seams in which CBM is stored. It is also
responsible for the management of historic mining liabilities including abandoned mine
workings. Permission must be obtained by any enterprise wishing to drill into virgin
seams or abandoned mine workings. The Coal Authority also manage applications for gas
pumping trials at their venting sites.

The Coal Authority has a statutory duty to encourage CBM development where it is
economically feasible and it adopts a flexible approach to the granting of access rights
provided arrangements can be made to protect any coal mining interests through an
Interaction Agreement. Access for CBM activities will not be granted unless a PEDL has
first been awarded to the applicant.

Planning Consent

CBM operators require planning consent from the local authority for exploration and
extraction activities. The response by local authorities to CBM planning applications
varies from area to area. Where permission is denied the operator can appeal but the
appeal process is invariably time consuming and costly, and the outcome uncertain.
Problems can often be avoided by involving the local authority and community at an early
stage of a project and ensuring that they understand the basics of the technology and
working practices proposed.

Environmental Protection

A number of environmental issues are associated with CBM development including the
disposal of any water produced. There is an automatic assumption based on USA
experience that virgin CBM production will involve the production and disposal of large
volumes of water. Currently, there is no evidence to suggest that this will be the case in
the UK.

Options for dealing with water are obtaining a discharge consent from the Environment
Agency (EA), on-site treatment or disposal is not available and the option for off-site
disposal will need to be considered. Abandoned mine workings may need to be de-
watered as part of a CBM scheme. Such activity will require consultation and agreement
with the EA and the Coal Authority. Environmental considerations such as noise, visual
impact and traffic management also need to be addressed for any surface operation.

Health and Safety Regulations

The detail of health and safety regulations applied by the HSE to CBM schemes varies
depending on whether they are associated with a VCBM, CMM or AMM project. The
present on-shore drilling regulations applied to CBM boreholes are onerous particularly
when compared with similar drilling operations carried out by the Coal Authority.

7.8 Barriers to Development

Commercial CBM development could be accelerated if some of the regulatory hurdles

were removed or lessened. Government recognises the difficulties and some of the
issues are already being tackled. Problem areas include:
• The high cost of electrical connection of small-scale power generation to the grid is
a discouragement to all forms of CBM exploitation.
• The capacity of the UK electricity distribution grid may be a limitation to small-
scale power generation in some areas.
• Incentives are warranted for CMM and AMM schemes which reduce greenhouse
gas emissions.
• Development relies generally on relatively small operators and therefore growth is
difficult to finance.
• The climate change levy imposed on power generated by CBM schemes, but not on
gas supply schemes, could inhibit exploitation of some marginal sites which would
be counter productive.
• The present on-shore drilling regulations designed for deep oil and gas exploration
are unnecessarily onerous for CBM and could discourage VCBM exploration and
also installation of AMM boreholes. CBM wells and boreholes must comply with
the onerous requirements of HSE’s offshore drilling regulations. These regulations
are designed for deep oil and gas wells and are not appropriate for typical
underpressured moderate depth CBM drilling. Compliance carries a high cost
penalty which could result in the cessation of further virgin CBM activity and
discourage development of AMM schemes where borehole access is required. The
CBM operators feel particularly aggrieved, as the Coal Authority is able to drill

mine water monitoring holes under similar conditions but under a less onerous
regulatory regime. Some operators are understood to be pursuing these issues with
• The pursuit of planning consents for AMM activities could be aided if official
planning guidance recognised the environmental benefits. Draft guidance on
planning issues is available but it could benefit from updating and wider
dissemination to ensure it reaches all PEDL holders and local authorities.
• The status of a methane drainage licence at mine closure is not clear especially when
held by a different party to the PEDL. Clarification is required to pre-empt any
litigation that could be costly and also damaging to the AMM industry.

7.9 Status Summary

CBM is currently being produced from working and abandoned mines in the UK and
testing of the VCBM potential of UK coal seams is continuing. Developers of AMM
schemes are particularly bullish and early signs are promising. The Association of
Coal Mine Methane Operators believe that ‘given encouragement’, the industry could
install as many as 20 projects a year (World Coal, 2001).

At present, most of the investment in CBM in the UK is directed at AMM schemes.

Once the relatively small companies involved in this activity have established a mature,
profitable business they may turn their attention to alternative CBM sources. However,
for at least the next five years the development of VCBM may be sluggish unless
government incentives are introduced to stimulate activity.


8.1 Introduction

The countries or geographical areas with the largest CBM resources are the former
Soviet Union (Kazakhstan, Russia and Ukraine), China, Canada, Australia, the USA,
Europe and India in order of decreasing importance.

8.2 Australia

The domestic and industrial market for gas in Australia is growing at a rate of about 3%
per annum thus encouraging the exploration and extraction of CBM. VCBM is
generally transported in natural gas distribution pipelines and CMM used for electrical
power generation.

VCBM exploration continues but the commercial viability of production schemes is

sometimes difficult to judge.


VCBM development has been carried out in both New South Wales (NSW) and
Queensland with relatively small commercial schemes reported in Queensland.

Difficulties in establishing the legalities of gas ownership and access have been
addressed at State level to ensure that CBM development is encouraged while
protecting the safety of underground mine workers. Experiences in the USA in the
Powder River basin where CBM has been produced from low gas content, highly
permeable, low rank coals has led to a re-assessment of Australian VCBM prospects.


To encourage oil and gas exploration in NSW the State government introduced
‘Discovery 2000’ which has resulted in unprecedented levels of exploration.

Sydney Gas Company (SGC) commenced a 25 test well drilling program at Johndilo,
near Camden, south west of Sydney, in February 1999 aided by a Federal Government
research grant of up to AUS$4.13 million. On the basis of initial test results from the
first five wells a sales agreement was reached including the provision of connection to
an existing national gas distribution pipeline. Full development of the area will involve
drilling about 100 wells per year. The company is presently looking to raise
approximately AUS$90 million to fund development of the resource to drill a total of
300 wells.

Substantial work has been undertaken by the SGC on the construction of collection
pipework to deliver the gas to the distribution point. The pipeline and infrastructure
consists of three main parts; a low pressure (70-200kPa) 200mm polyethylene pipeline
linking the wells to a compressor station, a compressor station to boost outlet pressure
to 1050kPa, and a 5km 200mm steel pipeline from the compressor station to the
distribution point.

15 wells have been drilled to date to varying depths with different well completion
techniques and target seams selected for stimulation. The company is researching the
gas production mechanisms of the coal and geology of the area with the aim of finding
areas with higher permeability and gas contents.

CBM exploration has been undertaken in the Gunnedah basin north west of Sydney.
First Sourcenergy (FSG) drilled 15 wells over a 12-month period from February 1998
with wells stimulated using different techniques. Wells are presently under test. CBM
activities elsewhere in the basin are ongoing. Earth Resources Australia Pty Ltd,
project managers for a CBM joint venture between Australian Coalbed and Pacific
Power, report recent investigation drilling in the Bando Trough region to have
intersected potentially commercial gas bearing seams with gas contents of 9-12m3 t-1
and permeabilities of 34-41mD.

Other CBM exploration drilling include Pacific Power who have completed four wells
in the Gloucester Basin and the Oil Company of Australia have completed four wells in
the Clarence-Moreton Basin. Suncore also have exploration interests in the northern
part of the Basin


Commercial VCBM production started in the mid 1990swith sale of gas into the
national distribution pipeline reported in the south-eastern part of the Bowen Basin by
both Conoco and BHP (QGMJ, April 1997). Conoco’s VCBM operation linked some
31 production wells to its Moura (15 wells) and Dawson River (16 wells) compressor
stations, supplying a total of about 110,000m3 d-1. Conoco sold its VCBM interests in

The BHP operation differed in that gas production came from both conventional
vertical production wells and horizontal borehole drilled in-seam (approximately
1500m) from the openpit highwall with total daily production similar to the Conoco
CBM scheme.

In the northern Bowen basin, CH4 Pty Ltd, a subsidiary of BHP, is evaluating guided
drilling with a three-hole test currently producing gas.

Queensland Gas Company are carrying out CBM exploration in the Walloon coal
measures in the Surat basin. Initial results indicate that this geological formation may
contain significant coal seam gas resources. Gas flow from the Argyle No.1 well is
28,320m3 d-1 with most of their other wells having significant flows. The development
of these coals is in direct response to the success of the Powder River basin. Target
areas have been identified on basis of the following criteria:
• total coal thickness greater than 10m
• in close proximity to reported gas blowouts
• main coal seam less than 500m depth
• close to existing or planned gas pipelines
• area covered by freehold land tenure.

Exploitation of the Surat basin is proposed using techniques similar to those developed
in the Powder River basin involving low cost drilling and completion techniques at
shallow depth. It is anticipated that CBM development of the Walloon coal using
inexpensive drilling and completion methods together with the presence of the existing
national pipeline infrastructure in the basin will allow commercial CBM operations to
be developed within three years.

Oil Company of Australia Ltd has a joint venture partnership with Sunoco Inc of
Australia to undertake a major exploration program to test the viability of the Jurassic
Walloon Coal Measures and the Permian Baralaba Coal Measures. A number of other
smaller exploration companies including Arrow Energy NL, BNG Pty Ltd and
SEQOIL Pty Ltd are undertaking test drilling.

CBM exploration elsewhere in Queensland includes Santos Ltd who are undertaking an
active exploration program to the north of their Scotia field with the aim of finding a
similar geological target. Galilee Energy Ltd is undertaking a major testing program at
Rodney Creek in central Queensland. Additional pumping equipment is to be installed
to accelerate de-watering.

Gas production from TriStar Petroleum Company Fairview Field near Injune is sold in
to the Duke Energy Wallumbilla – Gladstone pipeline. Oil Company of Australia is
presently developing the Dawson Valley coal seam gas fields near Moura. This
production is connected to the Wallumbilla – Gladstone pipeline. Gas from these fields
is supplied to the Queensland Nitrate’s ammonium nitrate plant at Moura in central

Oil Company of Australia Limited also operates in the Woodroyd coalfield near
Wandoan where pipeline and compressor station infrastructure was constructed in 2000
to connect into the Wallumbilla – Brisbane pipeline supplying gas to the BP oil refinery
in Brisbane.

Present VCBM production comes mainly from the Bowen Basin. In 1999 to 2000, it is
estimated that gas production amounted to 160x106m3, approximately 4% of the total
gas produced in the State. About half of this gas was flared although the construction
of lateral pipelines and the expansion of the in-field gathering systems has reduced this

Rights to CBM can be awarded under either the Petroleum Act 1923 or the Mineral
Resources Act 1989. New legislation is being developed to addresses this potential

Gas Transport

Patterns of natural gas and VCBM supply and demand are affected by the availability
of gas transmission lines. During the 1990sthe length of high-pressure pipeline was
doubled to about 16,000km. Pipeline construction costs have declined with the use of
higher-grade steels allowing use of thinner pipe walls, improved welding techniques
and better trenching methods. Some states, like NSW, have open access. Any third
party can transport gas at tariffs set by the regulators through a public process of
disclosure and debate (Minfo 66, Competitive reform and new pipelines reshape gas
market, 2000, p8).


CMM exploitation is concentrated on three mines; Appin, Tower and West Cliff
located to the south of Sydney, NSW. The first scheme was installed at West Cliff and
comprised a 12.5MWe gas turbine electrical generating set. During its first five years
of operation the gas turbine operated at 99.6% reliability and 96.4% availability. BHP
who owned mines nearby followed up a detailed investigation in the early 1980son the
options for using methane gas resulting in a 15MWe gas turbine installed at Appin
colliery. After a breakdown of the gas turbine, tests were carried out at Appin and
Tower using spark ignition engines. The tests indicated that methane emissions could
be reduced by 50% with the introduction of new utilisation technology. Power stations
were completed in 1996 at both collieries with a total capacity of 94MWe. The design
included for the feeding of a proportion of the low methane concentration bearing mine
ventilation air to the engine intakes.

Power generation at Appin is 54MWe and Tower 40MWe. In 1997 typical electrical
power generated from CMM at Appin was between 35MWe and 45MWe and between
25MWe and 35MWe at Tower colliery (Garner 2000). Full generating capacity was
achieved during peak demand to meet contractual obligations using natural gas to
supplement mine gas ensuring maximum use of mine gas available.

Following a change in ownership, the nearby West Cliff colliery was linked to the
Appin colliery power generation station via an overland pipe providing approximately
1600l s-1 methane on average during normal longwall production. A pipeline
connection between Appin and Tower allows for surplus gas to be diverted to Tower if
required (Hockey 2001)

The electrical power generation schemes at BHP’s Appin and Tower colliery in NSW
are often cited as prime examples of technology for maximising CMM use and
minimising greenhouse gas emissions. However, future commercial ventures
elsewhere are likely to be smaller to ensure optimum use of capital equipment.

Gas drainage at Central Colliery, located in Queensland’s Bowen basin, has been
practiced since 1989 involving both pre-drainage and goaf post-drainage techniques.
While options to use the gas captured by pre-drainage are under consideration, a gas
flaring scheme has been introduced to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Once a
utilisation scheme has been commissioned, the flare will be used to burn surplus gas.
Flow rates through the flare of 1000l s-1 methane are reported with an annual flow of
some 20x106m3 anticipated (Greenwood, Oct 1999)

Further opportunities to utilise CMM are limited to some possible small schemes
mainly in NSW.


The extraction and utilisation of gas from abandoned mines is presently not undertaken
in Australia. Opportunities may arise in coalfields where gassy coals such as the Bulli
seam in NSW have been mined.

8.3 Canada


Exploration is currently being pursued by more than ten Canadian companies and a
similar number of USA-based gas producers (Sinclair, 2001). Estimates of gas-in-place
range from 17x1012m3 (Canadian Potential Gas Committee) to 85x1012m3 (Alberta
Research Council). Most of the resource lies in the west with less than 0.3x1012m3 on
the east coast.

Interest in VCBM is increasing due to:

• rising demand for natural gas and a perceived shortfall by 2012
• strong price for natural gas
• low funding and development costs generally lower than conventional natural gas

• large resources
• success achieved in the USA.

The use of coal seams for sequestration of carbon dioxide is currently being
experimentally investigated in Canada.

VCBM investigations in western Canada started in the mid-1970s but to date

production testing only appears to have been conducted in about 20 wells. Flows of
20m3 d-1 were obtained from shallow, low gas content coals which has suffered
formation damage from drilling additives (Pembina area, Alberta). Two coal seams of
about 7m net thickness were completed at a depth of 1,536m yielding 1,130m3 d-1.
Current activity is commercially sensitive but no significant production has been

VCBM resources have been identified in the east, mainly in Nova Scotia. The gas-in-
place according to the Geological Survey of Canada is thought to be around 56x109m3
although one operator has proposed a volume three times higher. Despite drilling in the
late 1970’s, and more recently in 1994, no commercial production has been established.

VCBM exploration and development in Alberta and British Columbia is regulated in

the same manner as natural gas. The Nova Scotia provincial government has actively
promoted CBM development by making coal seam data available, sponsoring research
and by issuing calls for Exploration and Production agreements.

A Canadian Coalbed Methane Forum was established in 1991 to collate all the
available CBM data. Presently, there are over 50 members.


Canada produced 61.5x106 tonnes of bituminous coal and 12x106 tonnes of lignite in
1999 largely from opencast mines. Underground mines in Nova Scotia drained gas in
the past but no major CMM utilisation schemes were successfully initiated. Few
underground mines remain so the scope for mine gas utilisation is negligible. A series
of studies were, however, undertaken to develop a catalytic oxidation device to remove
methane from ventilation air. Plans for a trial at Phalen colliery in Nova Scotia were
terminated when the colliery was closed prematurely in September 1999. Nevertheless,
the technology has potential world-wide application if it can be demonstrated
successfully at commercial scale.


Gas emission rates are reported associated with Nanaimo abandoned underground
mines on Vancouver Island but the quoted values of 9-24m3 t-1 at 984m are probably
gas contents (Sinclair, 2001). Specific emission of 250m3 t-1 from the Crowsnest field
mines in the 1920s indicates high gas contents but occurrences of outbursts suggests
permeability may be low. The potential for recovering gas from abandoned mines,
assuming they are not all flooded, does not appear to have been recognised.

Prospects for CBM Development

Any CBM development will predominantly involve VCBM. The future of VCBM
development in Canada depends on the results of current pilot trials and government
incentives as does the viability of the process to dispose of waste carbon dioxide from
flue gas in deep coal seams and exploit the displaced methane (ECBM).

8.4 China

China is heavily dependent on coal for primary energy. Some 988Mt was mined in the
year 2000. The vast coal burn, much of which takes place within densely populated
cities, is responsible for serious air pollution levels which are no longer considered
acceptable by the Chinese government. Various international aid programmes have
been implemented to assist China develop and implement strategies to reduce pollution
within cities. The European Union and China are currently undertaking a major suite
of such projects under the Liaoning Integrated Environmental Programme including a
CBM project involving CMM and VCBM exploitation.

Clean fuels which can substitute for coal are currently in short supply. In the long-term
there are plans to pipe natural gas from Eastern Siberia to north-east China.
Meanwhile, there is an immediate need for gas, creating opportunities for CBM


The estimated CBM resource in China within explored coal areas to a depth of 2000m,
amounts to an estimated 30x1012m3.

CBM drilling started in the early 1980s. Little success was achieved until 1996 when a
pilot well field was developed by the North China Bureau of Petroleum (NCBP), with
technical assistance from the USA, in Shanxi Province as part of a UNDP supported
project Exploration for Deep Coalbed Methane.

The target for the development of the CBM industry in China is to produce annually 3-
4x109m3 by 2005, increasing to 10x109m3 by 2010 and attaining 20x109m3 by 2015.
Although over-ambitious, these projections indicate the strong commitment by China to
the large-scale development of CBM throughout the country. At present there are no
commercial virgin CBM schemes in China although there are very small-scale power
generation plants at some demonstration sites.

By the end of 1999, 201 virgin CBM wells had been drilled in China, mostly in existing
coal-mining areas. A test well at Jincheng produced a peak flow of 16,000m3 d-1.
Typical gas flows in ‘successful’ wells have ranged from 2000m3 d-1 to 5000m3 d-1.

There are currently no commercial VCBM schemes in China. Commercial exploitation

of VCBM is constrained by the lack of a pipeline infrastructure in China. Major
natural gas pipeline construction projects have been initiated and there is a policy to
divert them through coalfield areas where VCBM potential has been identified.

The need for overseas assistance to accelerate VCBM development was recognised by
the government of China, and the China United Coalbed Methane Company (CUCBM)
company was formed to assist foreign co-operative ventures. CUCBM is currently
seeking to extend its exploration base and initiate agreements with foreign companies
in new areas.

CUCBM signed 11 Production Sharing contracts (PSC’s) with six foreign companies
including Texaco, Phillips, Arco (now BP), Lowell, Greka and Virgin between January
1998 and January 2001. By the end of 2000 over US$76 million had been invested in
international projects, 47 wells were drilled and 29 fracced. De-watering of pilot wells is
progressing at development sites with exploration drilling at others. The highest reported
flow is 700m3 d-1 (Fan, 2001) but higher flows are expected as de-watering proceeds.

Greka (USA) are planning to import equipment into China for surface to in-seam
drilling trials. CUCBM is a partner. Four project sites have been identified. The aim
is to obtain commercial gas flows without the need for costly fraccing.


More than 95% of the coal mined in China comes from underground workings, some of
which are very gassy. Chinese mines liberate about 9x109m3 of methane annually
(more than 127x106 tonnes carbon dioxide equivalent) using only about 0.5x109m3.
The growth potential for CMM utilisation schemes is therefore large. Coal mines are
likely to be required to increase use of gas drainage techniques in a drive to improve
safety and to increase CMM utilisation to avoid environmental fines.

Commercial exploitation of CBM in China is currently limited to CMM drained in coal

mines primarily for safety reasons. The purity of the gas typically lies in the 35-90%
range depending on geology, the mining method, the drainage methods in use, gas
extraction rates, practises at the mine and the prevailing meteorological conditions.
The methane is invariably diluted with various proportions of air, nitrogen (de-
oxygenated air) and carbon dioxide and hence the quality of CMM supplied by mines is
usually much less than that of natural gas.

CMM is used in a number of cities, in which it is distributed in local pipelines, and

there is potential to expand the exploitation of this resource. Some 400x106m3 of CBM
was recorded as used in 1999. The principal use is cooking. The gas rings used are
fairly tolerant of fluctuations in gas composition and pressure, as are the customers.
There would be environmental advantages in also considering the use of CMM for
district heating in cities and as a clean fuel for industry. CHP is another possible

Drainage of gas in underground coal mines has been practised in China since the 1950s.
By 1996 there were some 120 coal mines with established gas drainage systems, and in
1995 about 600x106m3 of gas was drained in state-run mines. Some 20 mines were
operating in 1992 with absolute methane emission rates of 50m3 min-1 or higher, the
most gassy being Laohutai mine at Fushun with an emission rate of almost 223m3 min-

In 1982, utilisation of underground gas was included in the state investment programme
for capital construction of energy conservation projects. By the end of 1993, more than
50 gas utilisation schemes had been introduced. Projects have involved supplying mine
gas to household consumers, industrial concerns and gas-fired power generation
schemes. These utilisation schemes included a mine gas distribution system in Fushun
city which is still operating successfully. However, not all the schemes have been
sustained. For example, a mine gas-fired 1.5MWe power generation plant was installed
at the Laohutai mine in Fushun. It operated for about six years, burning gas in summer
when there was a surplus, until a gear broke and attempts to machine a replacement

Attempts have been made to introduce advanced underground drilling equipment from
Australia and the USA, to enhance methane drainage but it has either been unsuited to
geological conditions in China, or too costly to maintain. Hence the expected benefits
of introducing new CBM technologies have not always been realised. Pipeline
transmission schemes seem to be currently preferred in China rather than on-site power
generation at coal mines.

Future CMM developments

Should the World Bank prototype carbon fund prove successful, this proposed mutual
fund for greenhouse gas reductions could mobilise capital in favour of CMM schemes,
or dual CMM-VCBM schemes.

There is considerable scope for increasing gas availability and quality from coal mines.
Few mines are connected to pipeline networks, monitoring and control of surface mine
gas distribution is generally fairly primitive and gas capture could probably be
enhanced at most mines. A few mines have modern underground drilling equipment
but investment in similar equipment is needed at other mines. Computerised
monitoring and control systems are needed to regulate CMM extraction, collection,
storage and delivery.


Financial constraints and a need to reduce explosion risk has focused the attention of
mining enterprises on safety benefits of gas capture in working mines so abandoned
mines have received little attention as a gas resource. A UK-China CBM technology
transfer project, supported by the UK DTI, drew the attention of China to the
commercial potential of gas from abandoned mines. Subsequently, a further UK-China
collaborative project was initiated to concentrate on this issue.

Current Status of CBM Development

Commercial co-operation arrangements

The following means of co-operation are available for CBM projects:

• Production sharing contracts as used by CUCBM Co.Ltd and foreign parties
involved with VCBM exploration and development. The Chinese contributions
amount to 30-51% of the development costs.
• Joint venture can involve two or more beneficiaries jointly financing a project.
• China-foreign joint ventures are fairly rare for CBM related projects.
• Equipment lease is a new approach whereby the supplier leases the equipment to
the customer and then recovers their investment from the project proceeds.
Jincheng and Huainan CMM power generation projects are attempting this route.

Overseas assistance to CBM development

The Asian Development Bank, United Nations (UN), UN-Global Environment Facility
(GEF), Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and the Japanese ‘Green Fund’ have
sponsored a range of CBM projects, mostly CMM. Technical assistance, training and
equipment for VCBM and CMM projects have been supplied to China, mainly from the
USA, through various United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) projects
starting in 1992.

VCBM and CMM demonstration projects have not been widely replicated, even when
technically successful, because remoteness of markets has precluded commercial

A project to encourage coal mine methane market development started in October 1999
aided by the USEPA. Eight coal mine areas were identified for market study.

Incentives and barriers to CBM development

Coal mining enterprises are encouraged to develop CBM resources. Foreign co-
operative projects are favoured by preferential policies and tax incentives. Despite
these, VCBM is still not advancing at a rate which will enable the proposed production
targets to be met. The principal barriers are:
• Lack of infrastructure to transport the gas to market.
• Lack of mature gas markets.
• Potentially long delays between obtaining exploration rights and production rights.
• Many schemes too small to attract international investors.
• High development costs and long, uncertain lead times.
• Uncertainties in licensing and permitting CBM activities especially outside existing
mining areas.

It is possible that any CBM developments in the western parts of China may attract
additional benefits under the ‘go west’ policy.

8.5 Europe (Geographical)

Czech Republic

The Czech Republic has a long history of coal mining. The company OKD DPB
PASKOV Inc., a coalfield service company, is involved in AMM production, gas
drainage of CBM from strata reservoirs and CMM production in working mines. Gas
is distributed to consumers through a 200km-pipeline network. Almost all drained
CMM and AMM is used. There are, however, problems of uncontrolled emissions of
AMM into the ground and surface structures in the Ostrava region.

France and Germany

Attempts have been made to produce commercial gas flows from VCBM wells in these
countries. Testing in the Saar was terminated in 1999 due to low gas flows and
indicated seam permeabilities of 0.01-0.001mD.

Several CMM schemes are operational at remaining working mines. Both these
countries are exploiting AMM with the largest growth expected in Germany due to the
inclusion of AMM as a ‘renewable’.


The Netherlands are underlain by Carboniferous measures with thin coals containing an
estimated 0.8x1012m3 of VCBM to a depth of 2000m. All coal mining has ceased. The
Dutch government are keen to find cost-effective means of reducing industrial
emissions of carbon dioxide. The feasibility of combining carbon dioxide sequestration
with VCBM production is therefore being investigated. Much of this work is being
undertaken through EU R&D programmes.


VCBM exploration has been undertaken but limited results indicate that development
could be constrained by the apparently low permeability coals.

CMM is used for mine site power generation, for powering mine cooling and at a
demonstration desalination plant. The coal industry is being re-structured and there
may be opportunities for AMM developments especially where there are concerns
about uncontrolled surface emissions from closed mines.

8.6 Former Soviet Union

While it is likely that some of the major coalfields of the Former Soviet Union may
have technical potential for VCBM, the principal interest appears to be in the capture
and use of CMM. Resource statistics sometimes differ from reference to reference and
even within the same reference. Information is often patchy and its reliability
dependent on the quality of translations.


Existing energy supply and infrastructure is unable to meet industrial demands,

providing an opportunity for CBM projects located close to users. No commercial
VCBM production has been achieved.

The bulk of the CBM resources are concentrated in three coal basins lying within
densely populated areas.

Current areas of VCBM exploration include the Karaganda, Tentek, Saranskiy,

Sherubaynurinskiy and Ekibastuz coal basins.

Exploration and research was carried out on blocks within the Karaganda basin that had
the best CBM potential. This included a geophysical survey, 14 test wells and
evaluation of gas reservoir assessment techniques. The exploration work (Stoupak,
2001) identified the following key factors:
• Coal permeability increases in the vicinity of geological faults.
• Anticline structures with amplitudes greater than 6m form gas traps.
• Low permeability seals are formed by natural clays and mudstones greater than 1m
• Seismic data can be used to detect favourable CBM areas.
• Gas content below 10m3 t-1 were not considered in the resources estimate.
• Target coal seams lie at depths between 700-1500m.


CMM from working mines is the CBM source of current interest.

Historically there has been little incentive to use CBM. However, political and
environmental changes over the past 10 or so years have seen a change in attitude
where by the use of CMM is seen as a method of improving mine profitability with
improved methane capture benefiting mine safety and providing an alternative clean
fuel. Inadequate drilling and utilisation equipment are now hampering development
(Ruban, 2000; Burrell and Kershaw, 2000).

One of the main coal mining regions in Russia is the Kuzbass area where, in 1994,
there were 76 mines producing some 58x106 tonnes of coal. These mines released
more than 1x109m3 of gas with some 860x106m3 vented with the mine ventilation air.
196x106m3 of gas was captured but only a small amount was utilised. The number of
mines using methane drainage has reduced from 26 in 1995 to 17 in 1998. This
reduction is mirrored elsewhere in Russia where only 30 mines are reported to drain
methane although a larger percentage of captured gas is used. Uses of CMM include
heating mines facilities, metallurgical processing and electrical power generation.

CMM is pre- and post-drained using various surface boreholes and underground
horizontal and cross measures boreholes.

A pilot AMM utilisation scheme is presently been undertaken. The experiment at the
Chertinskaya mine in the Kuzbass uses gas drained from 16 surface boreholes (30m
spacing) connected to a 420mm diameter, 3km pipeline. Gas flow from the regulated
boreholes is typically 200l s-1 at a purity of 60%. It is reported that two generating
engines are operating on mines gas producing 1.2MWe (Burrell and Kershaw, 2000). It
is interesting to note the contrasting performance of the two generating sets. The
1MWe Caterpillar unit used 80l s-1 while the 200kWe Russia unit used 50l s-1.


The Ukrainian government has established the Alternative Fuels Centre (AFC) to assist
the exploitation and utilisation of CBM. Government re-organisation has seen the
merger of three former Ministries; coal, oil and gas and electricity to form the Ministry
of Fuel and Energy. It is hoped this will provide a cohesive approach to future energy
policy, including CBM.

The Ukraine has significant VCBM, CMM and AMM potential. Some of the most
gassy coal mines in the world are found in Ukraine, particularly in the Donetsk basin.

Development of VCBM in the Ukraine is at present restricted by the lack of suitable

demonstration of commercial viability.

EuroGas in partnership with the Ukrainian state-owned company ZahidUkrGeologia

completed drilling the first VCBM well in January 2000 to a total depth of 830m in the
Volyn coalfield (a 150 km2 concession) in western Ukraine adjacent to the Polish
border. Gas flows from both coal seams and sandstones were indicated. Depending on
the outcome, two further wells were planned.

Two CBM schemes, presumably CMM, are under development designed to use
technology from BCCK Engineering in the USA to clean up the gas. Each methane
treatment plant will have a capacity of up to 100x106m3 per annum.

There are two main coal basins the Donetsk and L’vov-Volyn basin. In 2000 the total
methane emissions from Ukrainian coalmines exceeded 1.8x109m3 with only
260x106m3 drained, of which some 62x106m3 was used, ie 4% of total gas emissions
(Kasianov, 2001). CMM is currently drained at 42 mines. Gas drainage uses both pre
and post methods involving surface and underground boreholes.

Gas reservoir characteristics in the Donetsk basin differ from elsewhere in that
significant gas is contained within the surrounding porous sandstones that are inter-
bedded with the coal seams combining the characteristic of both a coal reservoir and a
natural gas reservoir. It is estimated that the gas retained within the coal accounts for
only 15% of the total gas in the surrounding strata.

More than 120 boreholes have been drilled to depths of 260-1200m into different coal
seams with 52 holes stimulated to increase gas flow. The maximum daily flow
reported is 2600m3 prior to mining (virgin conditions) although daily gas flows of
10,000m3 have been recorded when the borehole intersects gassy sandstone horizons.
Undermining of surface gas drainage boreholes can increase the daily flow to

48,000m3. The best holes can produce between 5-8x106m3 of gas and in some
instances, eg, at the Yuzhnodonbasskaya mine over 16x106m3 of gas in five years
(Konarev, 2000). These results indicate that flows of up to 15,000m3 d-1 may be
attainable from VCBM wells in the Donbas region.

Drained gas is used in mine boilers, as an alternative fuel for vehicles. Research is on
going into the use of CBM for gas turbines and metallurgical processes. The primary
uses for CBM are likely to be gas distribution and electrical power generation.

8.7 India

Compared with the major coal mining countries, India has relatively modest CBM
resources. Nevertheless, the government of India considers VCBM and CMM as a
potentially important clean energy source. As within many countries ownership,
exploration and extraction of CBM in India does not fall under one regulatory body.
While the responsibility for future energy needs, including CBM, falls under the
Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas CBM where coal mining activities are taking
place responsibility falls under Coal India Ltd (CIL) and the Ministry of Coal.


Geological appraisal has identified about 20,000km2 of coalfield areas with a VCBM
potential in which recoverable gas reserves are estimated at 800x109m3 . The
bituminous coal basins with VCBM potential are: Damodar-Rajmahal in West Bengal
and Bihar, Sone-Mahanadi, and Narmanda-Pranhita-Godavari in Madhya Pradesh,
Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, and Maharashtra. Tertiary lignite-bituminous coal basins with
CBM potential include Cambay in Gujarat, Barmer in Rajasthan and Cauvery in Tamil

In 1999 the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) drilled a test well at Jharia in
Bihar and two wells in the Durgapur-Ranigunj area. Coal India Ltd (CIL) has also
shown interest in CBM exploration and discussion have taken place with ONGC about
possible co-operation in CBM exploration. Interest has also been shown by the
Ministry of Petroleum and Natural gas who has sought assistance from CIL in
identifying coal blocks for CBM exploration.

The Central Mining Research Institute (CMRI) has investigated virgin blocks in the
Jharia, Raniganj and East Bokaro coalfields (Sharma and Singh, 2000). Seam gas
contents measured in the Jharia coalfield blocks ranged from 8-15m3 t-1, from 6-7.6m3 t-
in Raniganj and 5-8m3 t-1 in parts of the East Bokaro coalfield. Great Eastern Energy
Corporation Ltd drilled two cored exploration holes at Surajnagar and Poradiha in the
Raniganj coalfield and found gas contents of less than 3m3 t-1 to about 500m and
increases up to 8.3m3 t-1 at greater depths in the former well. Gas flows were reported
into the wells indicating the possibility of high permeability at some horizons.

The Indian government proposes to allow bids including those from foreign companies
for the exploration and exploitation of VCBM. Some companies from India and the
USA, Amoco (BP), Wayburn and Cardinal Resources, have already carried out

The Directorate general of Hydrocarbons, Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas is
responsible for establishing the policy framework for VCBM development in India and
has evolved a model contract to facilitate global bidding. Exploration will be licensed
under a concession agreement, different from the production sharing contract approach
used in China. The government offers tax breaks, freedom to sell the gas and
provisions for 100% cost recovery. A royalty will be paid on produced gas.

Notices inviting offers for CBM exploration and production for seven blocks have been
announced by the government of India: two in Jharkhand, three in Madhya Pradesh,
one in Rajasthan and one in West Bengal. Coal ranks from lignite to medium volatile
are included, with gas contents ranging from 1.5-10.5m3 t-1 in the various prospects.
Unfortunately, there is no indication of what proportion of the gas consists of methane
at the various localities.


Most underground coal mines (90%) use room-and-pillar methods of extraction. Gas
drainage will therefore mainly involve pre-drainage of the worked seam although there
may be a possibility of establishing post drainage where pillar recovery is practised.

CIL through the Central Mine Planning and Design Institute (CMPDI) in association
with the UNDP and GEF are involved in a US$15 million demonstration project on
CMM recovery and utilisation. The aim of the project is to demonstrate the
commercial feasibility of using CMM extracted during coal mining for power
generation and as an alternative fuel for vehicles. Lack of technical know-how in India
is considered a barrier to effective use of CMM.

It is anticipated that the project will encourage the adoption of drilling technology and
working practices to drain and use methane more effectively. Two mines, Moonidih
and Sudamdih in the Jharia coalfield will be involved.

The project will include training and education of all levels within the Industry from
government to research organisations and the founding of a CBM clearing house to
facilitate interaction with potential foreign investors.

Preliminary Assessment of CBM Potential

It is likely that forthcoming exploration will identify some technically promising

VCBM sites. However, the market position will require careful examination. CMM
development under UNIDO involves the introduction of USA technology some of
which may prove to be inappropriate for Indian mining conditions and culture. The
potential for AMM has yet to be assessed.

India has a shortfall in energy supply but CBM is only likely to be able to make a
modest contribution at best. India can be a difficult market for foreign investors. The
power sector suffers from electricity theft and payment from revenue to a project can
be fraught, as Enron have learnt to their cost.

8.8 Southern Africa

South Africa has extensive coal resources but gas contents are generally low. Other
than in fault zones and near igneous intrusions, coal seam permeability appears to be
low. No significant VCBM prospects have been reported. Shallow, mostly room-and-
pillar workings offer little prospect of CMM or AMM development.

Geological conditions in Zimbabwe may be more favourable for VCBM and some
testing has been undertaken. Development is hindered by poor market and economic

8.9 United States

CBM in the US accounts for about 7% of the domestic natural gas production. A rise
in natural gas consumption in excess of 50% is forecasted over the next 15 years. CBM
is expected to contribute to meeting this increase in demand. VCBM is seen as a
significant resource with its wide geographic dispersion and relatively low
development costs compared with natural gas.

The Potential Gas Committee (1999) estimated the total recoverable CBM resources of
the USA as 141.422 trillion ft3, about 16% of the total natural gas resource. The CBM
resource was subdivided thus:
• Probable 14,369 billion ft3
• Possible 43,467 billion ft3
• Speculative 83,586 billion ft3

Gas prices are strong, rising from US$1.5 per million cubic feet (Mcf-1) (about
US$0.05 per m3) in April 1999 to a peak of over US$10 in January 2001 falling back to
US$5 Mcf-1 (US$0.18 per m3) in April 2001. The present figure of US$5 is considered
by the industry to be sustainable in the short and medium term.


CBM production has risen from 5660x106m3 in 1990 to over 34,000x106m3 in 1998
(World Coal, March 2000) as the number of producing basins has expanded from the
San Juan and Black Warrior basins to a total of eight major areas (Table 16). Over
8000 CBM wells are now in production. The contrasting properties of these areas can
be compared in Table 17.

Independent producers have played a key role in the expansion of VCBM into new
areas, some of which were originally considered non viable on the basis of San Juan
and Black Warrior experience. The support of Section 29 tax credits was not always
available necessitating the introduction of new techniques to reduce costs and improve
performance including coil tube fraccing completion techniques and guided in seam
drilling from the surface.

Alternative drilling techniques using guided boreholes to drill in-seam has been
identified as having significant potential in the US for both VCBM wells and CMM
drainage needed for safe coal production. Guided drilling may allow coals to be

exploited where surface access is restricted and also at depths where existing coal
stimulation techniques may not be appropriate. CONSOL, one of the leading CBM and
CMM operators is planning a number of test holes in 2001.

Water disposal

Water disposal from VCBM extraction in the USA is becoming increasingly difficult in
some areas forcing CBM operators to look at a range of disposal options including:
• disposal to land
• injection wells
• off-site disposal
• evaporation
• specialist disposal.

Water disposal to land is the lowest cost and hence the preferred option. This is
practised where water quality is of a drinking water standard. For more difficult
situations a new generation of down-well injection pump has been devised which can
inject water produced at the coal horizon into a selected disposal horizon in the same
well without bringing the water to the surface. Saline water can be used for dust
control on unpaved roads and for construction purposes (concrete additive) and
highway construction. This is particularly attractive to VCBM sites in remote mining
areas where there is little infrastructure.

Powder River basin

The development of VCBM in the Powder River basin (Wyoming and Montana) has
been remarkable for its rapidity and also due to the fact that the basin had previously
been discounted because of low seam gas contents and low coal rank. Successful
exploitation has led to a re-evaluation of other coal basins previously considered

The Powder River basin has a relatively simple geological structure. Coal seams, some
in excess of 10m thick, are found at depths from 50m to 760m. As in parts of the San
Juan basin, a substantial proportion of the gas may be biogenic in origin.

The shallow depth of the coal enables small rigs to be employed. Simple open hole
completion methods are used. Depending on depth, typical well costs range from
US$60,000 to US$120,000. Well completion involves setting the casing above the
target coal seam and then under reaming the coal to increase surface contact area. At
present only one seam is targeted at a time due to concerns about controlling water
migration between different horizons.

The coal has a relatively low gas content but permeability can be as high as one Darcy.
This high permeability means the coal has a high water content but once de-watered
gas recovery of up to 80% is anticipated. A high porosity also means that conventional
gas content measurement methods are not appropriate.

After the initial de-watering, production wells produce on average some 4500m3 d-1 of
gas and 75m3 d-1 of water.

In April 2000 monthly production from 1657 wells was 300x106m3 with some 1000
shut in wells awaiting pipeline connection. Production for the whole of 2000 was
projected at 3800x106m3. Production in the first quarter of 2000 has increased by some
50% with the number of production wells increasing by 60%. At present there are 72
drilling rigs working in this area.

VCBM development of the Powder River basin has involved dealing with the
following issues:
• the need to develop pipeline infrastructure with sufficient capacity
• the environmental and practical logistics of drilling 5000 plus VCBM wells per
• disposal of large volumes of produced water
• access rights.

Most water discharged from CBM wells meets drinking water standards and is
currently discharged at the surface into surface drains or into ponds where it can seep
back into the ground or evaporate. Where water quality is poor an alternative disposal
option is needed. Water management is a critical element and co-operation and
consultation is encouraged between the VCBM operator and landowner to minimise
any problems.

In much of Wyoming the surface owner does not own the mineral rights. In 1999 the
US Supreme Court ruled that the oil and gas estates rather than the coal estate owned
the CBM rights with the mineral owner having the rights of access to the mineral
subject to paying the surface owner compensation.

Raton basin

Evergreen Resources Inc have been at the fore of VCBM extraction in the Raton basin.
Some 575 wells are in production at depths from 180m to 400m. Interchange of
experience between their Raton basin and UK developments has led to the introduction
of technologies appropriate to specific site conditions and recognising the need to
control costs and quality.

The use of coil tubing allows selective coal horizons to be targeted. For instance, a
0.5m thick coal seam may be a good producer if the surrounding strata is suitable and
gas content favourable.

The Raton basin is fairly remote and therefore the pipeline compressors consume about
7.5% of the gas production.

Water disposal has been an issue in the Raton basin as elsewhere with 90% of the water
of drinking water standard and can be disposed of to land. The remaining 10% is
diluted with cleaned water. Typically wells produce 12 times less water than those of
the Powder River basin.

Future VCBM Prospects

Nelson and Pratt (2001), reflecting on recent experiences in the USA, state that low
rank, low gas content and depths greater than 4,500ft (1,372m) should no longer be
considered inherently limiting factors. Bulk permeability is the inherent limitation to
commercial production. They conclude with the following: “Operators face numerous
data acquisition and analysis challenges when evaluating the resource, production and
reserve potential of coalbed reservoirs. …….. Many commonly used coalbed reservoir
property measurement and rule-of-thumb analysis practices are now known to have
significant shortcomings. An important lesson learned from past experience is that
there may be significant reserve growth in many producing coalbed reservoirs, and
that numerous coalbed reservoir prospects previously considered uneconomic may
actually hold significant commercial development potential.”


Methane drainage methods in the US typically involve a combination of pre-drainage

of coal in advance of mining (from surface or underground in-seam boreholes) and post
drainage using goaf boreholes drilled from the surface above longwall coal production
panels. Relatively shallow working and few surface access limitations allow these
methods to be used.

Pre-drainage from the surface is achieved either from conventionally fracced VCBM
wells or from in-seam drilling deviated from vertical wells. The latter method
incorporates guided drilling techniques from the oil and gas industry to allow the
borehole to intersect and then follow the seam thus providing a larger surface area of
contact with the coal over an extended area. No fraccing is necessary.

A combination of surface and underground drilling techniques have been used at the
four gassy Jim Walters Resources mines in the Black Warrior basin. The strategy
involves using a combination of both pre and post drainage techniques including, pre
drainage surface wells, in seam boreholes drilled across the coal panel. The boreholes
are drilled from the return roadway at intervals of about 75m to within 30m of the
intake roadway. A slotted plastic is inserted within the borehole to minimise the risk of
borehole collapse. A typical hole can produce 35l s-1 when first drilled (Moloney,
March 2001). Surface gob wells are drilled to about 5-10m above the coal seam, as the
longwall passes gas is released and captured by the gob well.

Target Drilling, formerly AMT Drilling International, are one of the leading exponents
of guided underground drilling. Using state of the art DDM MECCA (downhole drill
monitor utilising modular electronically connected cable assembly) equipment
providing real time positional data they have drilled nearly 250,000m (Table 18) of
drainage boreholes. Target have drilled 33 guided boreholes greater than 1219m, the
longest being 1537m.

The guided drilling technology provides borehole navigational data, including azimuth,
pitch, elevation and orientation from the collar. Typically, information is relayed to the
control box in less than five seconds. The information is used to steer the downhole
motor assembly by adjusting the trajectory of the bent sub drill bit. Borehole position

is usually checked and refined ever drill rod or 3m interval. This system of guided
inseam drilling has successfully been demonstrated throughout the USA.


Initial reports of gas availability from abandoned mines indicate that the potential for
gas capture and use is low with generating capacity lying in the range of 1–3MW from
the gassiest abandoned mine (World Coal, June 2000).

Gas Utilisation

Coal companies are starting to look at revenue from gas sales as part of their business
plan, eg, as an energy company rather than a coal producer. Technology has been
developed to raise the quality of CMM to pipeline quality by removing nitrogen,
carbon dioxide, oxygen and other gases. This allows advantage to be taken of the well-
developed pipeline infrastructure.

Gas emissions from operational mines are a significant contributor to greenhouse gas
emissions. CMM utilisation schemes are viewed as the primary means of reducing
emissions. The USEPA is encouraging the development and introduction of
technologies to further reduce emissions by removing methane from ventilation air and
also by flaring drained CMM where the use of the gas is impracticable. There are a
number of barriers to such a move with safety being the priority.

Technology is being developed for improving the quality of natural gas by reducing the
nitrogen content that may also have applications for VCBM and CMM. A new
‘Molecular Gate’ technology separates gases at the molecular scale using a titanium
silicate sieve. The system is incorporated in an adsorbent bed as part of a PSA unit that
operates at a lower pressure than conventional systems. The system removes carbon
dioxide and oxygen when present in the feed gas, as well as nitrogen.

Another technology to improve gas quality involves cryogenics. Cryogenic plants

typically require feed rates of over 3000l s-1 to be economically competitive. Even at
these high flow rates treatment costs are $0.035 m-3.

Small power generation sets, as low as 75kW, have been developed to exploit CMM at
sites producing small quantities of gas especially when remote from pipelines.
Alternative options include using the gas as a supplementary fuel for industrial and
utility boilers. CMM can be co-fired with conventional fuel sources (coal, oil, gas) in
existing combustion units offering benefits not only in the quantity of base fuel used
but also in reducing emissions of oxides of nitrogen and sulphur. It is not clear how
much use is made of this technology which is being developed mainly under various
US government R&D programmes.

CONSOL Energy and Allegheny Energy have formed a joint venture to install two
44MW General Electric gas turbine powered generators at CONSOL’s Buchanon mine
in Virginia. This will be the largest CMM power project in the USA.

8.10 Comparisons of CBM Production and Use Worldwide

The source of CBM production varies significantly from country to country. In the
USA 96% of the production is from virgin seams, about 3.5% from CMM and the
balance from AMM. The proportion attributable to VCBM production in Australia is
uncertain, a value of 50% is suggested pending further investigation, the remainder
being CMM. In China 100% of the CBM used comes from working mines. CBM
production in the UK is shared between CMM (23%) and AMM (77%).

The types of CBM in commercial use in the various countries are shown in Table 19.


Research in selected areas could enable more and better use to be made of the UK’s
CBM resources.

VCBM Drilling Technology

Surface to in-seam drilling offers an alternative to conventional VCBM production

from a vertical well with fracced completion. Proponents of this technology suggest it
could facilitate commercial gas production from ‘tight’ coal seams as well as reducing
surface drilling location constraints. The applicability of this technology to UK
conditions should be evaluated. A demonstration by a specialist contractor is required.

CMM Drilling Technology

The potential application of surface to in-seam drilling to CMM drainage should be

examined in conjunction with the above VCBM appraisal.

Guided drilling technology could enable gains to be made in underground CMM

capture. Research in this area should be concentrated on improving the design and
support of guided longholes to facilitate drilling in soft material and disturbed ground.

AMM Exploitation

Any research programme should reflect the current interest in AMM and be aimed at
ensuring accurate quantification and maximum exploitation of this resource.

There is a large body of data relating to abandoned mines including geology, plans and
minewater recovery which if processed in detail could provide an indication of the
magnitude, distribution and accessibility of the UK’s AMM resources.

Prime sites for AMM are being targeted first by developers. Later developments may
become more difficult. An understanding of the characteristics of abandoned mine gas
reservoirs and methods for enhancing gas production need to be developed to ensure
optimum exploitation of this finite energy resource.

Abandoned coal mines with no surface connections other than the access shafts and
drifts could be candidates for sequestration of carbon dioxide. The feasibility should be

examined of using this process to enhance methane recovery as the carbon dioxide will
displace adsorbed gas from the coal.

Enhancing VCBM and AMM Production

The feasibility of developing biotechnological methods for enhancing CBM

producibility and content in both virgin seams and abandoned mines should be

Improving Energy Recovery

About half of the energy produced in most small-scale CMM and AMM power
generation schemes is dissipated as waste heat. Research is needed to identify
technologies for harnessing this thermal energy.


10.1 Introduction

There is a substantial repository of knowledge on CBM in the UK that could be used to

promote commercial activities worldwide. In particular, there are opportunities for
investment in customer-focused AMM projects in the UK and also for transfer of the
technology overseas. Future UK developments have been considered in Section 7.
This Section examines overseas prospects.

Although overseas operators have sought involvement in CBM developments in the

UK, there is little evidence of UK operators pursuing projects in other developed
countries. However, this is probably because of the small size of these companies and
the need to concentrate growth in the UK to establish a sustainable business.

CBM projects in developing countries require financial services, project management,

design, construction and equipment supply. VCBM exploration and development tends
to be the preserve of major international oil and gas companies. CMM and AMM
schemes are lower risk ventures which are beginning to attract some interest from
SME’s. Possible reasons for seeking involvement in CBM projects in these countries
• To take advantage of incentives for foreign investors.
• To establish a presence in the development of domestic and industrial gas markets.
• A relatively low cost means of entering and studying the potential CBM and natural
gas markets.
• Possible future opportunities to benefit from carbon emissions trading.
• Exploit opportunities to improve performances of existing schemes with modest
• Promote equipment sales (eg underground drilling, monitoring and control systems,
power generation plant).

Initial involvement could be considered as a ‘foot-in-the-door’ of an economy in which
consumer demand is expected to grow. Rewards could be higher in the long-term if a
suitable and progressive joint venture partner can be identified.

10.2 China and the Former Soviet Union

Table 20 shows the magnitude of worldwide CBM resources, indicating the importance
of the former Soviet Union and China as markets for VCBM, CMM and AMM
production and utilisation technologies.

Table 21 shows the large coal mine methane emissions in China, Russia and the
Ukraine of which only a small proportion is currently utilised.

In terms of production technologies, CMM projects involve substantially higher capital

expenditure than VCBM and AMM schemes due to the underground element additional
to surface installations (eg drilling machines, power packs, monitoring and control
systems). Preliminary estimates suggest a market for CMM plant and equipment of
£200 million in China and £60 million in the Former Soviet Union, assuming a 20%
market share. Maintenance, spares, design, financial and consultancy services could
substantially increase these figures. Technological advancements enabling increased
gas capture and use could further increase these figures.

There are too few data currently available to assess possible AMM related export
business with any degree of certainty but a first order estimate would perhaps be £100
million in China and £30 million in the Former Soviet Union. A current DTI sponsored
technology transfer project should assist in quantifying AMM potential in China.

There are opportunities for joint venture partners to become involved in VCBM, CMM
and hybrid (CMM, VCBM) schemes in China. Where the cost of constructing long
pipelines has been included in projects, returns on investment are not particularly
attractive. However, where gas transport facilities are already in place, CBM
production schemes could be promising.

10.3 India

The government of India is seeking to establish a CBM industry involving both VCBM
and CMM activities. World Bank funds are in place to initiate this process but with a
strong USA influence. Nevertheless, it is likely that there will be plant and equipment
requirements that could be met by UK suppliers already established in India. More
research on the market for CBM and its likely availability is needed before the full
business potential can be evaluated.

10.4 General

CBM projects can be relatively small and there could be many coalfields in different
parts of the world, not necessarily restricted to the major coal mining countries, with a
combination of market and technical factors favourable to modest VCBM, CMM or
AMM projects. Identification of these will probably be largely opportunistic.


The production of VCBM is proving difficult in the UK but the results of applying
state-of-the-art conventional technology are still being assessed.

The importance of pipeline infrastructure, and the cost of establishing it, is generally
understated when assessing VCBM potential in developing countries. For this reason,
VCBM development invariably fails to match expectations.

Many countries have found that VCBM approaches developed in the USA are not
always appropriate. It is now widely recognised that CBM development needs to be
country and coalfield specific. The relative importance of VCBM, CMM and AMM
varies from country to country.

Gas content and coal rank are not always reliable indicators of VCBM potential. Gas
in substantial quantities has been produced from coal of rank from sub-bituminous to
anthracite and from seams containing from 1m3 t-1 to more than 20m3 t-1. High
permeability can compensate for low gas content. Preserved fracture permeability is
the key for producing CBM from bituminous and anthracite coals and this depends on
the structural history of a coalfield.

CMM schemes are being encouraged in the developing countries to reduce greenhouse
gas emissions from coal mining. Substantial investment in underground and surface
equipment will be required presenting export opportunities for UK manufacturers and

In the UK, AMM may be the most important CBM energy source but CMM could be a
potentially more serious emitter of greenhouse gases. Detailed, independent AMM and
CMM emission, resource and reserve assessments would provide a basis for
determining the optimum environmental and energy strategy.

Europe, and the UK in particular, leads the world in AMM production closely followed
by the USA. There may be opportunities for introducing AMM technology into
developing countries with large coal mining industries such as China and the former
Soviet Union

CBM technologies are being developed in Australia and North America with emphasis
on new drilling technologies and utilisation options. Technologies for using methane in
ventilation air are receiving attention in the USA and developments are being pursued
in Australia, Canada and Sweden. Activities in the UK have been mainly aimed at
optimising VCBM drilling and completion techniques, and AMM exploitation.

Recent innovations include:
• Optimising recovery of VCBM using clean drilling techniques.
• Application of surface to in-seam drilling techniques to VCBM production.
• Use of coiled tubing techniques for hydrofraccing.
• Reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from working mines by flaring CMM.
• Development of practical units for removing and using low concentrations of
methane in mine ventilation air.
• Modularised AMM production systems.
• Casing while drilling through old workings to install AMM exploration and
production boreholes.
• On-site power generation using CBM in micro-turbines and fuel cells.


The authors acknowledge the UK Department of Trade and Industry for its financial
support of this review. The authors are also grateful to the many companies and
individuals who contributed to the technology survey and provided information on their
CBM activities.


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Table 1: Comparisons of CBM sources

Source Advantages Disadvantages

• Consistently high gas purity • Initial drilling and completion
obtainable. costs high.
• Operations independent of coal • Land access agreements needed
Virgin CBM
mining activities. for drilling and production sites.
surface wells
(VCBM) • Gas captured prior to mining • A large number of boreholes
could improve mine safety. needed together with surface
• High turndown capability with collection pipework.
no environmental emission risk.
• Mine gas is delivered to the • Gas purity can be variable
surface at a fixed location using (medium to low).
existing infrastructure installed • Potential interruptions in supply as
for safety reasons. linked to the mining operation but
• The gas is produced as a waste can be buffered to a limited extent
product, the primary reason for using gas holders.
Working coal mines
capture being mine safety. • No turndown capability.
• Utilisation reduces greenhouse • An external fuel supply may be
gas emissions by converting necessary to sustain a utilisation
methane to less harmful carbon process.
• High flow rates may be
• Access to gas reservoir using • Remedial work may be needed to
former mine entries or boreholes. adequately seal surface entries.
• Can, in some instances, install • The accessible gas reservoir may
access borehole on customer’s be progressively reduced in size
site. by rising mine water levels.
Abandoned coal
mines • Reduction in greenhouse gas • May be necessary to continue
(AMM) emissions from closed mines. mine water pumping.
• High gas flow rates can be
produced with generally stable
purity (high to low).
• Can adjust supply to match
demand within specified limits.

Table 2: Estimated UK atmospheric emissions of CBM (year 2000)

CBM Source Methane emission (tonnes) Data source

VCBM negligible Wardell Armstrong
CMM 200,000 Wardell Armstrong estimate
20,000 Coal Authority data
300,000 ACMMO
Table 3: Preliminary estimates of AMM resources and reserves in the UK

Area Thickness Average Estimated Estimated

(excludes of coal initial gas AMM AMM
working affected by content of resource reserves
mines) mining coal
(km2) (m) (m3 t-1) (106m3) (106m3)
Kent 40 2.1 2.3 77 0
Forest of Dean 87 1 0.1 3 0
Somerset 120 2 0.1 10 0
Yorks/Notts/Derbys 2550 10 5 51,000 30,600
Asfordby 5 5 0.6 6 6
Leics 44 17 0.5 150 15
S Derbys 60 6 0.5 72 36
Cannock 120 12 3.7 2131 1066
S Staffs 45 2 0.1 4 2
Coalbrookdale 30 13.5 0.1 16 8
Warwickshire 200 2 1.7 272 54
S Wales 1200 11 13.7 72,336 36,168
Pembs 1 1 10 4 0
Denbigh 90 10 8.4 3024 302
Flint 10 6 8.4 202 20
N Staffs 310 23 8 22,816 11,408
S Lancs 530 14.5 9.5 29,203 14,602
Burnley 125 4.8 5 1200 120
Northu'land/Durham 1850 10 1.4 10,360 5180
Cumbria 140 5 7.5 2100 210
Sanquhar 10 3 1 12 6
Douglas 40 20 1 320 160
Ayrshire 350 10 2.4 3360 672
Central/Clackmannan 1150 5.5 5 12,650 6325
Fife 200 5 0.9 360 36
Lothian 220 10 1 880 176
Totals 9527 212,568 107,172
Table 4: Estimates of UK CBM resources and potentially recoverable gas

CBM source Resource Potentially recoverable

(109m3) (109m3)
VCBM 2450 30
AMM 213 107
CMM 1.6 0.8

Table 5: Typical gas production rates in productive VCBM wells

Country Ranges of values m3 d-1

Australia 2,500 to 57,000
Canada 2,000 to 3,700
China 2,000 to 16,000
Europe 2,000 to 3,800
USA 1,400 to 28,000

Table 6: Features of a high-grade VCBM site

1. High methane content coal, ideally greater than 7m3/t

2. Substantial total coal thickness
3. Possible permeability enhancement eg by previous longwall mining
4. An anticlinal or other geological hydrocarbon trap structure
5. Well-jointed, fractured or permeable strata with hydrocarbon reservoir potential
6. A local customer for modest quantities of high quality gas
7. No environmentally sensitive features
8. Good access for drilling.
9. Low cost water disposal facilities..
Table 7: VCBM producibility indicators

Positive indicators Negative indicators

• Elevated gas flows in virgin in-seam • Negligible gas flows in virgin in-seam
driveages in mines and in boreholes driveages and in boreholes
• High seam gas contents • Low seam gas contents
• Seam fluids at normal pressure • Seams under-pressured
• Pronounced cleat structure • Poorly developed cleat
• Absence of cleat mineralisation • Intense cleat mineralisation
• Limited mining activity • High proportion of seams mined
• Water produced from coal seams • No water production from coal seams
• Coals gas-saturated • Coals undersaturated with gas
• Additional gas in anticlinal structures • No significant geological trap features

Table 8: Typical characteristics from various sources

Characteristics VCBM CMM Ventilation air AMM

Methane > 95 35 - 75 0.05 - 0.8 35 - 90
Mixture flow 1400 - 200 - 3000l s-1 100 - 200m3 s-2 30,000 -
8400m3 d-1 95,000m3 d-1

Pure flow 1400 - 8400 6,000 - 194,400 4320 - 138,240 11,000 - 86,000
(m3 d-1)

Table 9: Principal uses of CBM from different sources


Natural gas substitute • Mine heating and • On site power generation
power generation
Local power generation • Dedicated local • Pipeline to local industrial
pipeline to industrial consumers
• Dedicated pipeline to
domestic distribution
system (China)

Table 10: On-site uses of CMM

Uses Examples
Firing or co-firing (with oil or coal) • Examples in many mines world-wide.
boilers for hot water and space Generally only uses a small proportion of
heating. the drained gas.
Coal drying • Commonly used in coal preparation plants.
Shaft heating • Prevents dangerous ice forming and
improves workers comfort
Water treatment • Used to fuel a desalination plant at
Morcinek mine in Poland.
Power generation • Reciprocating engines, gas turbines and
combined cycle plant have been used. Due
to capital cost some schemes have a natural
gas supply to ensure continuity of power
output. Surplus electricity can be sold to the
Combined heat and power (CHP) • Used in Poland to supply heat and power to
a mine and a nearby town.

Table 11: Industrial uses of CBM

Application Detail
Burner Process ovens, boilers
Vehicles Historically used but little if any current use
Fuel cells For production of hydrogen for both stationary and mobile
Chemical feedstock Manufacture of carbon block, formaldehyde, synthetic
fuels and dimethyl ether (DME). DME is used as a
propellant in spray cans and is a possible diesel engine
fuel substitute. NKK Corporation, Taiheyo Coal Mining
Company and Sumitomo Metal Industries Ltd have
demonstrated DME manufacture using mine gas at
Kushiro colliery, Japan
Table 12: Upgrading CBM for pipeline or chemical use

Technology Process
Nitrogen rejection • Cryogenic distillation
• Pressure swing adsorption
• Selective absorption
Enrichment • Spiking with LPG to raise heat value
Blending • Mixing with natural gas, or higher purity CBM from
other sources

Table 13: Technology for using mine ventilation air

Technology Current Status

Lean burn gas turbine Under development by EDL and Solar. The ventilation
air feed may require some enrichment with drained gas.
No details of field experience currently available.
Fuel combustion air to Demonstrated at Appin colliery in Australia where about
raise fuel availability for 20% of the ventilation air is ducted to on-site caterpillar
reciprocating engines gas engines. The methane in the ventilation air provides
about 10% of the fuel requirements of the engines.
Thermal flow reversal MEGTEC Systems have developed a thermal oxidation
reactor (TFRR) device called the VOCSIDZER capable of removing all
the methane from a ventilation stream. A small-scale unit
(3m3 s-1) was operated at Thoresby colliery, UK. Modular
uits have been designed for mine use but a full-scale
demonstration has not been made. Carbon credits may be
needed to make the process financially viable.
Catalytic flow reversal Developed by Natural Resources, Canada and
reactor (CFRR) demonstrated as technically viable at pilot plant scale.
Private partners are now needed to develop and prove the
technology at full-scale.
Table 14: CBM use in the UK

Operator Site CBM Use Output (1) Access for production

source (MWe)
Alkane Energy Markham AMM Delivered by dedicated pipeline (500m) to 6 Unfilled shaft
Alkane Energy Steetley AMM Electrical generation using 1x3MWe spark 3 Unfilled shaft
ignition engine
Alkane Energy Shirebrook AMM Electrical generation using 5x1.8MWe spark 9 Drift
ignition engines
Octagon Silverdale AMM Burner tip use and electrical generation (spark 9 Drift
ignition engines). Gas supplied using local
gas distribution grid
Octagon Hickleton AMM Electrical generation using 4x1.35MWe spark 5.5 Filled shaft
ignition engines.
StrataGas Bentinck AMM Electrical generation using 3x3.5MWe spark 10 Drift
ignition engines
Hyder Tower CMM Electrical generation for on-site use with 8 Gas delivered from methane
colliery 6x1.35MWe spark ignition engines drainage plant
UK Coal Harworth CMM Electrical generation using combined cycle, 14 Gas delivered to on site power
Mining colliery 2x4MWe gas turbines, waste heat boiler and station from methane drainage
10MWe condensing steam turbine. plant and natural gas pipeline.
Note (1) equivalent electrical generation
Table 15: Projected CBM activities in the UK

Operator Scheme Description Output (1) (MWe)

Alkane Wheldale Gas from an abandoned mine for on-site electrical power generation using spark ignition 9
Energy engines.
Alkane Various Gas from abandoned mines involving electrical power generation and direct supply to 400 by 2004
Energy local end user. Access may involve drilling large diameter surface boreholes.
Evergreen Various Fove virgin CBM wells drilled in the Cheshire area are presently under test. Four -
boreholes (three in de-stressed seams above mineworkings) drilled. Additional boreholes
planned for 2001.
Geomet Exploration for virgin CBM planned.
StrataGas Various Four virgin CBM wells planned in the North Staffordshire area. -
Octagon Various A number of proposed schemes using gas from abandoned mines likely to be for on-site 50 by 2002
power generation. Access will include large diameter surface boreholes. A drilling
programme has been developed with the aim of drilling from 20-40 goaf and VCBM
wells over the next two years, subject to planning constraints
UK Gas Ltd Various A number of proposed schemes using gas from abandoned mines, involving large -
diameter surface boreholes.
Edinburgh Hem Gas from an abandoned mine to be used for electrical power generation. Further Up to 9
Oil and Gas Heath evaluation of the extraction and use of gas from the nearby former Florence colliery
Coalbed Hillhead Additional virgin CBM well planned together with further de-watering tests at existing 1
Methane Ltd Farm CBM wells
Hyder Tower Future generating capacity under review -
UK Coal Various Feasibility studies into the on-site use of drained methane, possibly including power 10
Mining collieries electrical power generation
Electricity or equivalent
Table 16: Principal VCBM production basins in the USA

Basin State Major producing coal Estimated VCBM Estimated Total VCBM
formation resource recoverable production
VCBM resource 1981-99
(109m3) (109m3) (109m3)
San Juan Co,N.M Fruitlands 1415 328 188
Black Warrior Al Pottsville 566 122 30
Central Appalachian Va, V.W Pocohontas 141 68 7
New River
Uinta Ut Black Hawk 282 85 3
Ferron ss
Powder River Wy Fort Union 1104 263 3
Raton Co,N.M Raton 282 99 2
Piceance Co Williams Fork 2802 71 1
Arkoma Ok Hartshorne 113 48 1
Table 17: Comparisons of VCBM production methods in the principal basins

Properties Units Powder River Raton Uinta Arkoma Central

Drilling Air - water Air - precussion Air - precussion Air - water Air - water
Completion Open hole under Cased hole Cased hole Cased hole Cased hole
reamed water frac perforated perforated perforated perforated
multistage N2 multistage cross multistage multistage N2 foam
foam/sand frac linked/sand frac acid/water frac or water/sand frac
Water extraction Electrical Progressive cavity Conventional rod Conventional rod Conventional rod
submersible pump, conventional pump pump pump
rod pump
Water disposal Surface discharge Surface discharge, Evaporation, deep Deep injection Deep injection
evaporation , deep injection
Coal rank Sub-bituminous High volatile High volatile Low volatile Medium volatile
bituminous bituminous bituminous bituminous
Net coal thickness m 23 9 7 2 3
Gas content m3 t-1 1 10 11 16 9
Well spacing) Acres 80 160 160 80 60
Well costs US$ 65,000 330,000 375,000 50,000 130,000
Well reserves 106m3 11 51 42 5 11
Reservoir mD 1 - 1000 NA 5 - 15 1 - 10 1.5
Daily water M3 60 10 - 20 45 2 2-5
production per well
Daily gas production m3 5560 7075 17,685 2264 2264
per well
Table 18: Guided drilling distances

Borehole profile (m) Meters drilled (m)

244 - 762 170,688
762 - 1006 15,240
1006 - 1219 6096
>1219 48,640

Table 19: Sources of commercial CBM production in different countries

CBM type Commercial production

VCBM USA, Australia
CMM USA, Australia, France, China, UK,
Poland, Czech Republic, Germany,
former Soviet Union
AMM UK, Germany, USA, Czech Republic

Table 20: Estimated worldwide VCBM resources (adapted from World Coal
Institute, 1998)
Country CBM Resource (1012m3)
Former Soviet Union 20-116
China 30-55
Canada 6-76
Australia 8-14
USA 11
Germany 3
Poland 3
UK 2.5
India 1
South Africa 1
Indonesia <1
Approximate Total 86-283

Table 21: CMM opportunities

Country CMM emissions (106m3) CMM used (%)

China 9000 5.6
Russia 1000 1 (1)
Ukraine 1800 3.4
Estimated value