Coal mine methane - the next generation

Monday, 07 May, 2007

The Australian government will invest $18.5 million over five years, partly funded from the existing Greenhouse Gas Abatement program, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from underground coalmining activities.

Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, Malcolm Turnbull has announced that funding will be made available through the 2007-08 Federal Budget to reduce methane emissions from underground mines, found mainly in New South Wales and Queensland.

"Methane is a highly flammable and potent greenhouse gas," Turnbull said.

"This funding will support the safe capture of waste methane gas, which will then be used to generate electricity or be converted to less harmful gases.

"Underground black coal mines in Australia emit 12 million tonnes of greenhouse emissions each year, although much of it is in low concentration and cannot be captured and used."

Turnbull notes that this measure will be useful where there are particularly high concentrations of methane, and could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 900,000 tonnes annually. This is equivalent to taking more than 200,000 vehicles off the road.

"Australia is also working closely with China "“ one of the largest economies in the world "“ to reduce methane emissions and improve the safety of its mining operations," Turnbull said.

"Coal is the main energy source in both China and Australia, and China is currently responsible for more than 40% of the world's coal production. Coal mine methane is therefore a key priority under our bilateral climate change partnership with China.

"Under this partnership, Australia and China are working together on four projects to explore the potential for coal mine methane recovery and use in China, including generating electricity using world-leading new technology designed by Australia's CSIRO."

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