Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Methane recovery and monitoring systems may have Blue Fuel/DME implications

BLUEFUELENERGY.COM: As reported recently on the website, Mineweb, the advance of methane recovery and monitoring equipment technology is helping companies in a broad range of fields to improve safety and generate new revenue.

In terms of background, coal mine methane (CMM) is a greenhouse gas (GHG) with a global warming potential 21 times greater than that of CO2. Author John Chadwick estimates that by 2020 CMM emissions from the world's coal mines will increase by 30% from current levels and represent about 8% of methane emissions generated by human activity.

Although capturing methane emissions is both a mine safety issue and a necessity for decreasing GHG emissions, it is also a business opportunity. For example, methane gas can be burnt to create electricity. In 2007 UK Coal, a pioneer in the use of this technology, earned a US$10m profit by using gas extracted from its mines to power over 40,000 hones.

Chadwick also asks the question: what are the wider opportunities which this advanced method of methane monitoring is now helping facilitate? To give some examples, captured methane can be used for natural gas pipeline injection, electric power generation, co-firing in boilers, district heating, mine heating, coal drying, vehicle fuel, and manufacturing uses such as feedstock for carbon black, methanol - and, most importantly for readers of this blog, the production of dimethyl ether.

Also, for the very low concentration methane in mine ventilation air, technological development has progressed to the point that this CMM source can be oxidised and the resulting thermal energy used to produce heat, electricity, and refrigeration.

Although the Mineweb article does not state specifically that methane drainage techniques are being used for Blue Fuel/DME production, it is interesting to note that China - the world's leading DME producer - is also the leader in purchasing this new-generation methane capture equipment.

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