EPA's Coalbed Methane Outreach Program (CMOP) has assisted the coal mining industry in successfully increasing its methane recovery by 50 percent between 1994, when the program was launched, and 2009. These emissions reductions are due to active underground mines recovering and utilizing drained gas. In 2009, the U.S. coal mining industry recovered and used about 81 percent of all drained coal mine methane (CMM).
Reducing Emissions of Coal Mine Methane (CMM)
Between 1994 and 2009, U.S. CMM emissions reductions have effectively removed the equivalent of more than 263 million metric tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. These avoided emissions are equivalent to 654 billion cubic feet of methane – 588 from active underground mines and the remaining 66 from abandoned underground mines.
According to the EPA's Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator this is equivalent to:
- Removing over 51 million passenger vehicles from the roads for one year
- Shutting off more than 63 coal fired power plants for one year
- Providing electricity to more than 33 million homes for one year
These emissions reductions have had an important economic impact as well. CMM gas sales have nationally generated between $150 million and $350 million in revenue in recent years, depending on natural gas prices.
Total U.S. CMM emissions have declined since 1994
Comparison of CMM drainage that is emitted with CMM drainage that is recovered and utilized
CMOP has been successful in encouraging and facilitating the development of environmentally friendly and economically sound CMM recovery and utilization projects. Accomplishments since the program's launch in 1994 include the following:
- CMOP has developed detailed profiles of 50 active underground coal mines that represent opportunities for recovering and using coal mine methane.
- CMOP has prepared assessments for project opportunities at abandoned underground coal mines and surface coal mines.
- There are currently about 14 coal mine methane recovery and utilization projects at active underground coal mines, and about 38 projects recovering methane from abandoned underground coal mines.
The graph below illustrates CMOP's emission reduction goals as well as performance in relation to these goals. Program goals were re-valued in 2002. CMOP began including emissions reductions from abandoned mine methane projects in 2004.
Promoting Recovery of Ventilation Air Methane (VAM)
EPA's Coalbed Methane Outreach Program (CMOP) joined with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and industry partners in an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and generate a new source of clean energy from coal mines. This project supports the first U.S. demonstration of a technology designed to capture and use methane gas emitted by coal mine ventilation shafts.
EPA contributed $500,000 to the joint project, and DOE provided over $1.1 million. CONSOL Energy, a U.S. coal mining company, is hosting the demonstration at an abandoned mine site near West Liberty, West Virginia. CONSOL and MEGTEC Systems provided approximately $400,000 in funding and resources, as well as technical support. MEGTEC's thermal oxidation system (the VOCSIDIZER) destroys methane, and is also capable of generating heat and electricity.
CONSOL VAM Demonstration Project at Windsor Mine (PDF, Sept. 2009) (339 pp, 19.7MB)
Executive Summary (PDF, Sept. 2009) (4 pp, 48K)
Promoting Capture and Use of Abandoned Mine Methane
The EPA encourages recovery and utilization of methane from closed or abandoned coal mines throughout the U.S. and globally. As the chart below indicates, abandoned mine methane (AMM) emissions have decreased over the last decade while recovery and utilization has increased gradually.
Methane Emissions from Abandoned Underground Coal Mines
It is clear that many opportunities for project development at abandoned mines still remain. CMOP has identified some 400 abandoned mines (PDF) (90 pp, 2.0MB, About PDF) that are considered “gassy” and may represent good project candidates. The national inventory guidelines prepared by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change now includes CMOP-developed methodology to estimate emissions from abandoned coal mines.