Australia looks to burn mine gas

Australia has successfully taken methane gas from coal mines and used it to produce electricity as part of its ongoing campaign to cut down on greenhouse gases.

The project, spearheaded by the Envirogen group of companies, with A$13 million part-funding from the Australian Government under the Greenhouse Gas Abatement programme, has prevented harmful methane leaving coal mines and entering the atmosphere, and used it to generate electricity, instead of using traditional fossil fuels.

Gas coming from coal mines damages the environment because it contains significant amounts of methane, which as a global warming potential 21 times greater than carbon dioxide.

In the past, methane has been successfully harnessed for industrial use, but in many coal mines it is vented into the atmosphere with consequent damage to the environment. In Australia, methane from coal mining accounts for 3.4 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions.

This project is expected to cut back on over 2.6 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions up to 2012.

A gas transfer system picks up the gas from the pit’s existing mine vent shaft and pipes it to suction pumps and a gas processing plant which is sited close to a power station.

At the gas processing plant it is filtered, compressed, and cooled before being fed into a manifold system feeding each of eight containerised gas engine units.

The project, undertaken in New South Wales and Queensland, will provide electricity to over 23,000 homes during 2008-2012.

The Australian Minister for Energy and Water Resources, Malcolm Turnbull, said: “It offsets more greenhouse-intensive electricity sourced from traditional coal-fired power stations.

“Envirogen has diverted waste gases from coal mines into a viable energy source, which demonstrates innovation by Australian industry to adopt creative, technology-based solutions to help us deal with climate change.”

Paul Humphries

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