Fugitive Methane Containment

Containing Fugitive Methane Emissions

The CC Lab is investigating options for methane destruction and/or containment. Both natural sources of methane, such as peatlands, and human-generated sources, such as abandoned coal mines, are of interest. Peatlands store more carbon than all of the trees in the world. While peatlands are a critical carbon sink, they can also be a major source of greenhouse gas emissions if drained or disturbed. In coal mines, methane forms during coalification and adsorbs into rock seams. Mining disturbs and exposes these seams, releasing gas. Once a mine has been closed, new disturbances stop but prior disturbances continue to cause emissions.

Containing Fugitive Coal Mine Methane

Across the U.S., coal mine closings, layoffs, and bankruptcies abound with no sign of slowing. While Abandoned Mine Methane (AMM) is far from the leading source of methane emissions, or even coal-related methane emissions, less than a third of these emissions are currently captured and used.

The CC Lab is now focusing on the large number of soon-to-be-closed coal mines which will emit the largest amounts of methane soon after mining operations cease. The geographic focus has narrowed to Kentucky, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and perhaps Illinois and Indiana. The team is also investigating international opportunities and best practices in incentive structures to advance methane capture. 

The CC Lab is currently speaking with stakeholders and those with experience in the mine closing process, as well as projecting soon-to-be-abandoned mine locations and calculating the associated methane emissions. In addition, the CC Lab is analyzing production, employment, and economic data to prioritize mine sites, corporations, or states that should be of primary focus. The CC Lab is also thinking about ways in which local communities can be more effectively supported through mine closures using funds generated from capturing methane and selling the associated carbon offsets.

Based on projected coal mine closures in the U.S. and rates of methane emissions from these abandoned mines, the CC Lab estimates that the total containment opportunity for flaring these fugitive methane emissions contributes significantly to its goals both for the current decade and for 2100. Initial efforts will focus on U.S. coal mines, but the Lab aims to have innovations in this area scale globally.

     Carbon Cycle for the CC Lab U.S. fugitive methane containment project