Use of mine ventilation exhaust as combustion air in gas-fired turbo-electric generators

Philip W. Johnson, Thomas Novak, David J. White, John W. Stevenson, Randall A. Mills, Edward L. Lasseter, Charles M. Boyer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Methane liberated in coal mines is a potential safety hazard, because it is explosive at relatively low concentrations (5%-15%) in air. To manage methane, underground mines are ventilated with large quantities of air and, in some cases, the gas is also drained with gob wells and predrained with vertical and horizontal wells. The ventilation air is used to dilute methane emissions to levels well below the explosive limit, and the diluted stream is discharged to the atmosphere. Unfortunately, this waste stream may contain as much as 60% of the total gas energy that was originally in the coal. Also, methane is considered by some to be 24.5 times more detrimental than CO2 in contributing to the greenhouse effect. The volume of the waste stream, the high electric power demands of a mine, and the greenhouse effect of methane provide a strong incentive for converting the waste-methane chemical energy to the electrical or mechanical equivalent. A preliminary economic assessment of a proposed test-turbine installation at the Jim Walter Resources Blue Creek Mine Number 5 (JWR No. 5) shows that such a project makes good sense economically, even without considering the emissionreduction benefits. This unit could produce enough power to drive a ventilation fan, provide a profitable rate of return, and produce a 2% reduction in emissions. A market study indicates that there is the potential to generate 706-816 MW of power from mine ventilation gas in the U.S. Worldwide, if only 10% of the estimated mine ventilation emissions can be used for power generation, this technology has potential for the generation of 1689-1953 MW of capacity, with a commensurate reduction in emissions. Index Terms- Coal, coalbed methane, generator, methane, mine-mouth power stations, mine ventilation, turbine, ventilation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)399-405
Number of pages7
JournalIEEE Transactions on Industry Applications
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1998

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
PaperPID 97–29, presented at the 1996 Industry Applications Society Annual Meeting, San Diego, CA, October 6–10, and approved for publication in the IEEE TRANSACTIONS ON INDUSTRY APPLICATIONS by the Mining Industry Committee of the IEEE Industry Applications Society. This work was supported by the U.S. Department of Energy under Contract DE-AC21-95MC32183. Manuscript released for publication October 13, 1997.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Control and Systems Engineering
  • Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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