FREE NEWSLETTER: Econintersect sends a nightly newsletter highlighting news events of the day, and providing a summary of new articles posted on the website. Econintersect will not sell or pass your email address to others per our privacy policy. You can cancel this subscription at any time by selecting the unsubscribing link in the footer of each email.

posted on 12 March 2016

Australia's Coal Mines Are Pouring Methane Gas Into The Atmosphere

from The Conversation

-- this post authored by Bryce Kelly and Charlotte Iverach, University of New South Wales Australia

Methane emissions are one of the major concerns surrounding coal seam gas. But we should also be paying attention to other sources of methane, in particular those from coal mining. By dealing with these we could make significant progress on reducing Australia's greenhouse gas emissions.

Some coal mines have operational power plants and pilot studies to use the vented methane and reduce emissions. But recent mapping of the concentration of methane in the atmosphere at ground level by UNSW Australia in association with Royal Holloway University of London Greenhouse Gas Laboratory shows that we need to do much better.

Methane is a colourless and odourless gas, but, like carbon dioxide, it contributes to global warming. In fact it is more potent: methane released into the atmosphere has a global warming potential 25 times greater than carbon dioxide over 100 years.

Apart from energy, major sources of methane include municipal solid waste, municipal waste water, agriculture (predominantly cattle and rice cultivation), bushfires, termites, wetlands and natural seeps from the Earth.

It may be invisible, but we can now measure and see the distribution of methane in the atmosphere. Portable laser-based gas analysers allow us to measure in real time the concentration of the methane in the atmosphere in parts per billion (ppb).

Rising methane levels

Methane is a natural part of our world, but human activities over the past two centuries have increased its concentration in the atmosphere from a base global average of 722 ppb in 1750 to a global average of 1,823 ppb in 2015.

Due to lower population densities and industrial activities, the southern hemisphere has cleaner air. Until last year the southern hemisphere had methane concentrations less than 1,800 ppb. However, Australia passed that significant benchmark in 2015.

As we can see from the internationally important Cape Grim data collected by CSIRO, methane concentration stabilised between the years 2000 and 2006. Methane concentration oscillates with the seasons (as does carbon dioxide), peaking in September.

Between the years 2000 and 2006 the annual peak was about 1,740 ppb. But since 2007 it has increased by 4-11 ppb per year, peaking at 1,803 ppb in September 2015. Since 2007, methane in the atmosphere has steadily increased worldwide. Just why it started rising again is poorly understood.

To better understand why methane is increasing in the atmosphere, over the past three years we have been undertaking extensive measurements of greenhouse gases in the ground-level atmosphere throughout New South Wales and Queensland. The focus of our research has been mapping methane in all landscape settings to determine significant sources.

Surveying on the move

We have travelled many thousands of kilometres to measure greenhouse gas emissions in urban, rural and mining landscapes using a portable greenhouse gas analyser. The methane analyser is simply placed inside a car, and air is drawn into the analyser via a tube which has an inlet mounted on the roof. We then measure the concentration of methane in the atmosphere as we drive along roads.

Ground-level concentration of methane in the atmosphere throughout the Hunter Valley. Spikes extending beyond the 3.0 ppm concentration line are associated with underground mine venting. Bryce Kelly, Author provided

From the figure above you can see that Hunter Valley coal mines are a major source of methane released into the atmosphere. Most of the methane above background concentrations in the atmosphere is due to venting of methane from underground coal mines to make them a safe place to work - if the mines weren't vented, the methane could ignite and explode.

While some mines capture vented methane to generate power or flare the methane, this image shows that a lot more work needs to be done if we are to satisfactorily reduce the greenhouse gas footprint of coal mining, even before the coal is used to produce electricity.

On some days methane concentration above 2,000 ppb extends for 50 kilometres near the coal mines. We have not encountered any other landscape with elevated readings extending for kilometres, with the exception of days when there are bushfires.

Current approximations of methane being emitted to the atmosphere are a combination of measurements and estimates. This has resulted in considerable uncertainty in the values reported to government and tallied in Australia's greenhouse gas accounts.

Australia needs a more extensive greenhouse gas monitoring network, so that we can reduce the uncertainty in our National Greenhouse Accounts and better track progress on our international emission reduction commitments.

Our research is focused on measuring what is actually being released into the atmosphere. This is vital for properly understanding how large our greenhouse gas emissions are, and where to focus our efforts to reduce these. Clearly, further reducing emissions from coal mining is a good place to start.

This article was co-authored by Elisa Ginty, an honours candidate at UNSW.

The ConversationBryce Kelly, Associate Professor, Connected Waters Initiative, UNSW Australia and Charlotte Iverach, PhD candidate, Connected Waters Initiative, UNSW Australia

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

>>>>> Scroll down to view and make comments <<<<<<

Click here for Historical News Post Listing

Make a Comment

Econintersect wants your comments, data and opinion on the articles posted.  As the internet is a "war zone" of trolls, hackers and spammers - Econintersect must balance its defences against ease of commenting.  We have joined with Livefyre to manage our comment streams.

To comment, using Livefyre just click the "Sign In" button at the top-left corner of the comment box below. You can create a commenting account using your favorite social network such as Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn or Open ID - or open a Livefyre account using your email address.

You can also comment using Facebook directly using he comment block below.

Econintersect Contributors


Print this page or create a PDF file of this page
Print Friendly and PDF

The growing use of ad blocking software is creating a shortfall in covering our fixed expenses. Please consider a donation to Econintersect to allow continuing output of quality and balanced financial and economic news and analysis.

Take a look at what is going on inside of
Main Home
Analysis Blog
Comments on Feyerabend’s ‘Against Method’, Part II
Comments on Feyerabend’s ‘Against Method’, Part III
News Blog
Mom Breaks Down In Tears When Son With Autism Meets Service Dog
Rail Week Ending 15 October 2016 Paints A Negative Economic View
What Is The New Normal For U.S. Growth?
Affordable Care Act And Its Effect On Part-Time Employment
The Speed Of Filling Jobs Is Declining
First Working Eggs Made From Stem Cells Points To Fertility Breakthrough
Infographic Of The Day: Mega Machines
Online Platforms Double Down On TV Programming
A History Of Mars Missions
How Tesla Out Innovates Traditional Carmakers
Schiaparelli's Descent To Mars In Real Time
September 2016 Existing Home Sales Still Not Excellent
September 2016 Leading Economic Index Improves Indicating Moderate Growth Ahead.
Investing Blog
Options Early Assignment - Should You Worry?
The 401k Plan Manager 17 October 2016
Opinion Blog
Prop. 51 Versus A State-Owned Bank: How California Can Save $10 Billion On A $9 Billion Loan
Obama's Middle East Policy Has Been A Complete Failure - Or Has It?
Precious Metals Blog
How Will The Election Outcome Impact Precious Metals?
Live Markets
21Oct2016 Market Close: Major US Indexes Close Flat On Low Volume, Crude Prices Resume Climb, US Dollar Stabilizes In Mid 98 Handle, Yes, Most Investors Are Worried Which Way This Market Will Go
Amazon Books & More

.... and keep up with economic news using our dynamic economic newspapers with the largest international coverage on the internet
Asia / Pacific
Middle East / Africa
USA Government

Crowdfunding ....



Analysis Blog
News Blog
Investing Blog
Opinion Blog
Precious Metals Blog
Markets Blog
Video of the Day


Asia / Pacific
Middle East / Africa
USA Government

RSS Feeds / Social Media

Combined Econintersect Feed

Free Newsletter

Marketplace - Books & More

Economic Forecast

Content Contribution



  Top Economics Site Contributor TalkMarkets Contributor Finance Blogs Free PageRank Checker Active Search Results Google+

This Web Page by Steven Hansen ---- Copyright 2010 - 2016 Econintersect LLC - all rights reserved