Global Coal Mining Considerations

Mr. Henry CooperA Global Issue for Consideration: Bringing Coal Mining (Coal Mine Methane Technology) Back to the Future ©

By Henry Cooper

Oil and natural gas significantly reduced the usage of coal in home heating. This change caused the United States, and other developed countries to focus on the acquisition of oil and natural gas as cleaner burning technologies. An article published in Technology Review by MIT opines that Developing nations like China have continued to mine and burn coal at fairly high rates due to burgeoning population and industrial growth.

A recent quotation by the Unites Nations Economic Commission for Europe states,

“Global coal production methods, transportation strategies, storage needs and overall consumption account for about 40% of global greenhouse gas emissions is exhibits further exacerbation by the statement, “Current projections suggest coal usage will increase as demand for electric power increases in developed and developing nations”.

Development and extensive implementation of Coal Mine Methane technologies may provide solutions providing economic, cost effective emissions controls, and low-cost recycling of the dangerous and harmful gas Methane.

Among the potential benefits for most nations, in capturing and re-using Coal Mine Methane (CMM), are significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, a nearly inexhaustible supply of sustainable clean-burning energy, and optimized revenue generation from both operating and depleted coal mines.

Many of these are important to developing nations as the struggle continues to maintain growth activities associated with manufacturing…while concurrently diminishing environmental damages related to greenhouse gases.

With these facts in evidence, this researcher was sufficiently intrigued – during a recently MBA Global Management course – to ponder upon what might be the initial phases of an international project plan focused on deriving energy from, and minimizing damage to the planet due to ever-increasing greenhouse gases, in China.

This researcher believes that Successful development and implementation in China may, indeed, signal the path for other developed and developing nations seeking reduced dependence on oil as a primary fuel source.

As stated by the Unites Nations Economic Commission for Europe, greater focus on erasing coals carbon footprint, and further use of a Coal-Mine Methane technology is therefore being directed at” minimizing the environmental damage of the entire coal industry value chain from production through utilization” (UNECFE, 2010).

Clean Air Manufacturing and Energy Re-Use

“Outlined in a plan by the Unites Nations Economic Commission for Europe, is the position that “One of the more effective near-term options at the production stage is the capture and use of methane from coal mines” (UNECFE, 2010).

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chimes in that “This not only mitigates climate change, but delivers other important co-benefits including improvement of mine safety and productivity, localized energy production, and improvement in local/regional air quality” (EPA, 2007).

Most recently an Australian company has introduced a process which reaps significant benefit from Ventilation Air Methane (VAM). “Recovery and use of CMM” and VAM otherwise emitted, “mitigates climate change, improves mine safety, increases productivity, and additionally generates revenues and cost savings, sources at the Unites Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNCFE) state. The ability of those capable of harnessing this potentially wasted resource presents infinite possibilities for the environment, power generation, and revenue source as dependence on foreign oil imports decline.

CMM and VAM Technology – History and Development

In this current age of global warming caused by man-made industrial pollution, many abandoned and non-productive coal mines remain a potentially potent source of both latent energy and decreased atmospheric contamination.

The science of CMM is as follows. Methane gas is generated during the formation of coal through The ‘coalification’ process of vegetal matter, over millions of years, thereby leading to the formation of coal beds. Methane is therefore a by-product of both coal formation and its subsequent mining activity. Techniques have been developed for years in efforts to reduce Methane and its combustion related dangers to miners for many years.

Forcing the methane from the mine by pumping in less dangerous gases during extraction activity is a major source of vaporous release into the environment and atmosphere. During mining activity the explosive potential in the presence of the methane, ethane, and carbon dioxide into a confined space precipitates the need to minimize its volumetric footprint from these spaces, for safety reasons. “According to the CBM Association of Alabama, 13% of the land in the lower 48 United States has some coal under it, and in all coal deposits methane is found as a byproduct of the coal formation process.”

Elizabeth Shogren in her article written for the Los Angeles Times (Shogren, 2006, p. 1) writes that the idea of burning coal and the re-use of methane is not a new one. “During the 1800’s “cities such as Boston used big, dirty ovens to turn coal into town gas to fuel streetlights and gas lamps in homes, and “Nazi Germany in World War II turned coal into liquid fuel to run tanks” (Shogren, 2006, p. 1).

Alpana Singh and Bhagwan D. Singh, add further evidence in their offering, “Methane gas: An unconventional energy resource”. Serving notice that “The United States and Canada have been exploring methane obtained from coal beds (‘coal bed methane’) since the early 1970s and 1980s, respectively” (Singh & Singh, 1998, p. 1).

Recent technological advances have now pushed this concept back into the mainstream as nations, regions, and industries attempt to lower the effect on unwanted climate change while maintaining industrial capability, and producing cleaner, more efficient, and revenue enhancing methods of energy production.

According to the Global Anthropogenic Emissions of Non-CO2 Greenhouse Gases 1990 – 2020, and the EPA, “China emits approximately 40 percent of the planets Coal Mine Methane”. Eliminating these gases from release into the atmosphere and harnessing the potential energy for re-use provides a more than adequate source of power for developing – and eventually even developed nations – seeking ways to minimize greenhouse gas damage to the atmosphere from the mining of coal, the re-use of VAM, and generation of .power from mines with remaining diminished capacity.

Experts Alpana Singh and Bhagwan D. Singh theorize (Singh & Singh, 1998, p. 1) that, the global coal bed methane reserves present today are presumed to be several times greater than the total reserves of all the known conventional gas and oil fields, thus providing an abundant reservoir of potential clean-burning energy nearly everywhere on the planet.

According to the EIA (Energy Information Admin.-US GOV) coal reserves are as follows: The Top 5 countries (in billion short tons) are the US: 270,718 billion, Russia: 173,074, China: 126,215, India: 101,903, and Bangladesh: 86,531. It should be noted that three of the top five are developing nations. The potential shift of wealth and economic power should this technology become mainstream is astronomical.

Developing the Technology

MEGTEC recently announced “the inauguration of the first power plant in the world to use MEGTEC’s technology to generate electrical power by using coal mine ventilation air methane (VAM) as its primary fuel”. A technique has been developed to derive super-heated steam from as little as 0.9% ventilation air methane (VAM). Researchers and experts postulate that the energy production is not only clean, but provides additional cost-savings and revenue generation through the re-use of ventilation air (VAM) circulated in the mine during and post completion of the mining process.

Overview

Many elements have been considered prior to the posting of this initial overview to the GETDA site. A history and understanding of CMM and VAM technology, its feasibility, effectiveness, and cost-benefits has brought this researcher to the conclusion that a more in-depth project plan will yield significant cost-savings, revenue generation, and reduced greenhouse gas effects if considered for implementation. Further development of the plan will identify, logistics, analysis of revenue types and clean energy generation, combined with a decreased dependence on oil, foreign and domestic.

Assumptions

The issues facing developing nations such as China, are balanced on the need to increase industrial activity requiring fuels which at present are expensive and harmful to the atmosphere. Thus, this researcher pondered upon ways to reduce the effects of burning coal in fueling power plants, as well as the additional benefit of developing an additional clean energy resource for use and sale.

Project Strategy

The strategy employed for getting any such project completed will require a full-scale Implementation. The timelines will vary by region, and industry, but ultimately lead to more officious usage of limited land mass resources that can be recycled, and made to become “future friendly” sources of energy and Methane gas atmospheric reduction.

Project Scope and Objectives

Project Scope is an important element of any project and/or implementation plan. This initial plan and proposal is sufficiently limited and must hold any proposed mission statement and project strategy assessments in abeyance for the next more formal phase of project planning and implementation.

Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats

Strengths

This article is by way of being a brief analysis of the potential this project presents to any potential project sponsors…readers from around the world . The Global cultural climate today holds industry to a higher standard regarding the usage of the planets resources and the subsequent harms that industrial activity will present. Further development and implementation of this plan will succeed in meeting the needs of developing nations in several aspects of concern to both critical land use issues, and global-warming concerns.

Weaknesses

The costs associated with the implementation are huge, and joint ventures between developing and developed nations have been slow to catch on. Re-deployment of current technologies and energy sources while availability is less an issue has yet to steer countries like China to engage these technologies at a very rapid rate.

Opportunities

New revenue sources, increased revenue generation, decreased greenhouse gas emissions, are but a few of the significant opportunities presented through implementation of this project plan.

Threats

Failure to adopt newer clean-air technologies will be detrimental to the atmosphere within a fairly short amount of time. Developing nations, in an attempt to catch up, explore and expand into global markets. They will find it increasingly tempting to continue the current trend in industrial growth utilizing oil and other “dirty” forms of energy usage and production unless introduced to a financially feasible and effective form of conventional energy use.

China and other developing nations continue developing at very rapid rates. Their employment of fuels like coal, and oil have added significantly to the greenhouse gas effects outlined in global climate change documentation. Efforts at curbing uses of these damaging fuel sources has met with resistance, and quite often derision, as the requestors are frequently the most onerous offenders.

This researcher hypothesizes that this strategy which, if implemented, may salvage the aspirations of industrial manufacturing, and continued international industrial growth while simultaneously providing economies additional revenue and clean-burning fuels for those attempting to proliferate their participation in the global economy.

Technologies re-using and deriving energy from the Methane in coal beds, both mechanical and organic, present many areas of the world with a potentially unending source of both clean energy and manufacturing prowess. The short and long term changes will expand far beyond the regions in which the technology is employed. The cultural, social, and political implications of any nation’s leading the way in this revolution are far outweighed by the cost of re-tooling and re-vamping current Coal mining and extraction techniques.

Innumerable changes will occur in areas with large coal reserves. Power and re-generation plants will not only serve as energy sources, but they will power much of the area surrounding them. The geo-political implications are huge as well.

As the world decreases its dependence on oil, the effects in the oil-rich Middle East and other regions of the world provide truly far-reaching consequences.

In light of these findings this researcher strongly suggests that developed and non-developed nations re-examine CMM and VAM as sources solving several important global, economic, and geo-political issues.


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