Babcock & Wilcox MEGTEC

A Global First: Coal mine turns greenhouse gas into ‘green energy’ using Megtec Systems’ patented vam technology


Source: Babcock & Wilcox MEGTEC

“Coal mines are one of the largest single emitters of methane gas,” states Richard Mattus, Business Manager for the VAM project at MEGTEC.  “And among greenhouse gasses, methane (CH4) is second only to carbon dioxide (CO2) in global impact,”

“In fact,” Mattus continues, “methane is over 20 times more potent at warming the atmosphere than CO2.”

“Furthermore, while coal mine ventilation air methane (VAM) is, for mine safety reasons, diluted to concentrations of less than 1%, enormous volumes are being emitted — and it’s even harder to design technically and economically viable systems to dispose of this greenhouse gas.”

MEGTEC Systems, however, has developed a patented combination of emission control and steam cycle technologies, the VOCSIDIZER, that delivers on both counts.  And it’s proving its value every day.

World’s first commercially viable VAM-converting installation: WestVAMP in Australia.
Four VOCSIDIZERs are up-and-running at West Cliff Colliery, BHP Billiton, Australia.  MEGTEC Development Manager Ake Kallstrand reports that, for more than one year, these systems have been converting the energy of the coal mine’s 0.9% VAM concentration into electrical power.

“Actually,” Kallstrand explains, “the VOCSIDIZER turns VAM into high grade, superheated steam that operates a 6 MW (Megawatt) conventional steam turbine.  The electricity generated by the plant is fed into the local area power grid.

“Of course,” he adds, “at British Coal in the UK, starting in 1994, a VOCSIDIZER showed it could efficiently oxidize the very dilute VAM.  And in 2001, an installation at Appin Colliery, BHP, Australia, demonstrated twelve full months of efficient heat recovery, using VAM as fuel to generate steam.

“Here, we’re going all the way.”

Measurable returns from multiple sources; new installations could pay for themselves 2 to 3 years.

Colin Bloomfield, President of BHP Billiton, Illawarra Coal states that “we are very pleased with results from MEGTEC’s VOCSIDIZER system.  To date, we have abated some 250,000 tons of greenhouse gas —  200,000 by direct methane emission and the balance by displaced electricity emission reduction. And the installation is only taking 20% of the full air volume from the ventilation shaft.

“The facility generates revenue from Greenhouse Abatement Certificates, issued under the NSW (New South Wales) Government’s Greenhouse Reduction program.” 

 “Such certificates often are referred to generically as ‘carbon credits,’” notes Lars Sundback, Managing Director of MEGTEC’s Sweden office.  “They are key currency for investments in global greenhouse gas emission abatement and conversion technologies.”

Valuable credits can be earned with MEGTEC’s exclusive VAM technology, he points out, by VAM abatement.  Converting VAM to thermal energy, or into electrical power, as with WestVAMP, can generate direct income and/or savings in addition — amounts that could be considerable, depending on local area conditions and power needs.

Although the United States is not a Kyoto Protocol signatory, Sundback says there is an increasing market in voluntary carbon trading in the U.S.  And, in a demonstration project at CONSOL Energy’s Windsor coal mine, a system from MEGTEC has been abating simulated VAM, generating the ultra-low mine gas concentrations typical for VAM by diluting abandoned-mine methane into fresh air, since May of 2007.  The project is partially funded by the U.S. EPA and the Department of Energy (DOE).

As rapidly developing global carbon credit trading and investment options evolve, Sundback suggests that the potential exists for coal mines to realize full payback from a new VAM plant in two or three years.

“Of course, ‘environmental payback’ from these systems benefits everyone.”

Patented technology also earns MEGTEC a U.S. EPA Climate Protection Award.

Recognizing the significance of the MEGTEC system for handling VAM emissions as well as actual results generated at WestVAMP, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), on May 19th named MEGTEC one of its Climate Protection Award winners.

“Efforts to help fight climate change will benefit the planet for generations to come,” stated Bob Meyers, Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator, EPA Office of Air & Radiation.

“We are honored,” summed up MEGTEC Systems President Mohit Uberoi at the award presentation ceremony in Washington, D.C.  “By bringing forward new technology to reduce methane emissions, we are proud to be part of the global climate protection solution.”

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