"Coal mine methane (CMM) and abandoned mine methane (AMM), are by-products of underground coal mining. The quantity and the emission rate of CMM and AMM may vary depending on the type of mine, gas content of the mined coal seam, and gas sourced from strata and coal beds in overlying and underlying formations affected by mining. Therefore, if a mine has the potential of accumulating gas after being abandoned and sealed properly, methane may be produced and used as an energy source to serve to local communities around the mine. Producing AMM also prevents methane, which is a potent greenhouse gas, from leaking to the atmosphere through seals, shaft plugs or surface cracks.
One of the technical barriers in front of investments to economical utilization of CMM and AMM is the difficulty to predict how much methane may be available in the gas emission zone (GEZ) as a resource during mining, and after the panels are sealed and the mine is abandoned. Another difficulty is to estimate how much of the potential methane resource can be produced, and its production feasibility with boreholes, such as gob gas ventholes (GGV) converted to capture AMM.
In this study, a comparative assessment is presented to address the issues stated above. The assessment was conducted on two adjacent panels of a longwall mine that operated until 2016 in the Pennsylvania section of the Northern Appalachian Basin. The study is based on two approaches that might be used depending on the availability of data, extensive or minimal. The first approach uses an extensive geological data set, geostatistics, and measured shaft gas emission and GGV production values that were collected while the panel(s) were active to assess the AMM resource. The second approach uses a minimal amount of geologic data and its uncertainty as probabilistic distributions as well as predicted during-mining emissions using a publicly available software. Results showed that both approaches provide relatively comparable estimates of AMM resources and AMM recovery potential using wellbores. The differences in assessed quantities are mostly due to the characteristics of the two methods. In that regard, this paper can be considered as guidance to choose the assessment approach based on data availability.