Methane Emissions from Abandoned Coal Mines in China

Abstract This study is based on a detailed inventory of methane emissions from abandoned coal mines in China. The initial data collection efforts for this study focused on the eastern piedmont of the Taihang mountains in the coal-bearing region of Shanxi Province, China. Chinese government sources state that methane emissions associated with coal production were 19 billion m3 in 2006, whereas the total methane emissions from all coal mine sources in China are estimated to contribute 730 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent to the atmosphere each year. Chinese coal production has risen from 2.380 billion tonnes in 2006 to 2.716 billion tonnes in 2008. While there are activities to capture and destroy methane from active coal mines and pre-mine drainage funded through the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), through direct support from external organizations and agencies and through the introduction of regulations, there is dearth of information on emissions from abandoned mines and no known projects to capture and destroy the methane being emitted from this source. The reasons for this are numerous: lack of empirical data on methane being generated, ownership issues and a lack of focus on abandoned mine methane due to the range of opportunities available at active mines—under the CDM, for instance, there is currently no approved methodology for abandoned mine methane projects. This study is designed to help redress the lack of knowledge of, and focus on, abandoned mines by producing a systematic inventory of abandoned mine methane emissions in China, with an initial focus on the coal bearing regions of Shanxi Province. There is believed to be 260 billion tonnes of coal in Shanxi Province, and the annual coal production was 0.66 billion tonnes in 2008 (representing nearly one quarter of the China total) from 2800 separate mines. The life time of an average local mine is typically 20 years.
Publisher University of Colorado at Boulder’s Renewable and Sustainable Energy Institute
Series EPA Project No. EPAOARCCD0903
2 Coal, 2.3 Coal and the Environment