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A fuel of the future

World Coal,

As demand for gas increases on a global scale, coalbed methane (CBM) has attracted the attention of companies and investors worldwide. Gases associated with deposits of coal offer a number of potential benefits to those willing to invest in developing such unconventional resources. Not only can they improve safety at coal mines, they are also environmentally-friendly and can be harnessed for power generation. Conversion of the gas into power typically occurs with a reciprocating gas engine. Here the gas can be used to generate electricity or alternatively – when used in a combined heat and power (CHP) configuration – useful heat also. If there is a local user for the heat, CHP can readily achieve a fuel efficiency level in excess of 90%.

The gas liberated from coal seams is often characterised as being of very high quality: almost pure methane and equivalent to natural gas. Using the gas for onsite power production is also beneficial for the environment, because diesel, the typical alternative, has higher carbon emissions and more pollutants associated with its combustion.

There are a number of synergies between coal deposits and gas, whether associated with or created from the coal. The technology needed to convert coal gases into power is well established and can be used to generate electricity at high efficiency – either for use onsite or else for export. Using this gas for power production can help to reduce carbon emissions, while at the same time improving the safety of workers at minesites across the world.

In this report, the author discusses the role CBM can play in meeting the increasing global demand for gas. The CBM industries in Australia and India are highlighted and explored, while a case study details the development of a 45 MW waste coal mine gas power generation facility at a coal mine at Moranbah, Australia. With the potential to provide commercial returns to investors, while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions and simultaneously improving worker safety, the potential of CBM to be a fuel of the future is not in doubt.

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Author: Alex Marshall

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