Why methane emissions?

Methane is a key component of natural gas and an important energy source, but is also recognised as a potent greenhouse gas.

Methane gas is formed underground during the natural process where organic plant materials are converted into coal. The gas is stored within coal seams and surrounding rock strata and can be released during natural erosion, faulting or mining operations. Reducing methane emissions from NSW coal mines will result in a substantial reduction in the sector’s greenhouse gas emissions.

In 2015 approximately 15 million tonnes of CO2 was emitted from coal mining as fugitive emissions1. This accounted for 11 per cent of the state’s total greenhouse gas emissions.

Project: Greenhouse Gas Abatement Facility Demonstration

The challenge:

Investigate new technologies to reduce the methane emissions that can escape from coal mining.

The action:

Coal Innovation NSW funded the trial of a Ventilation Air Methane Regenerative After Burner (VAM-RAB) technology.

Grant amount:

Up to $2.2 million (EOI Round 2009).

The 2018 round offered two different funding options. The Seed funding stream capped funding at $100,000 over one year and aimed to support projects generating new ideas to achieve a specific goal, test an innovation or undertake essential desktop studies. The research stream was capped at $1.5 million per project with a maximum duration of three years. This funding aimed to support projects demonstrating reduced deployment timeframes of a specific technology to gain market advantage or share.

The project:

Centennial Mandalong Pty Ltd received funding to trial a new technology called a Ventilation Air Methane Regenerative After Burner (VAM-RAB).

This technology oxidises almost all the methane (>99%) in a combustion chamber heated to approximately 1000º Celsius. At this temperature the methane is converted to water and carbon dioxide (CO2), which has a significantly lower Global Warming Potential (GWP) than methane. A key feature of the technology is its ability to be self-sustaining as it doesn’t need additional energy to maintain the temperature in the combustion chamber.

A demonstration plant was constructed at Mandalong mine to test the technology. Initial heat-up trials in 2014 revealed issues with the plant requiring an extensive remedial works to recommission the plant. However, the heating trials remained unsuccessful, as the required temperatures were not reached.

In early 2019 the project ceased by agreement of all parties, with a commitment to work with the Commonwealth and industry to navigate a pathway to the commercial deployment of VAM abatement technologies. The project highlighted the safety issues involved in abating VAM. Subsequently, a separate, Commonwealth funded project was able to achieve a safe design installation of VAM abatement technologies at an active mine site.


VAMRAB pilot plant at Mandalong (courtesy of CINSW)

1  Department of Environment and Energy, Australian Greenhouse Emissions Information System, 2017, viewed on 22 December 2017, http://ageis.climatechange.gov.au/NGGI.aspx

For further information
Coal Innovation NSW