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Mining Contract: Adapting Remote Methane Leak Detector (RMLD) to Coal Miner Rescue

Contract #200-2011-40565
Start Date9/19/2011
Research Concept

This contract will evaluate the practicality and permissibility of modern laser-based technology for remotely detecting and mapping potentially explosive methane accumulations. This technology could be useful for monitoring methane in routine conditions, during deep cutting, and in mine rescue situations.

Topic Areas

Contract Status & Impact

This contract is ongoing.

Methane monitoring is one of the most fundamental safety practices in underground coal mining. Actions for monitoring methane and dealing with elevated methane levels in active areas are specified in 30 CFR 75.342 and 30 CFR 75.323, respectively. Although the CFR mandates point measurements at the production face of at least 1 foot from the roof, ribs, and face, remote methane detection using laser technology adapted from the natural gas leak detection industry offers the promise of a secondary measurement to supplement this point reading, thus providing additional knowledge regarding the volume and extents of the methane cloud. The successful development and use of remote methane devices also has significant potential to enhance miner safety.

This research effort remotely detects methane using laser-based technology. This approach can be useful as a secondary method for detecting methane at a mine face where the operator must remain under supported roof, and in mine rescue situations. Previous work in this field was halted due to technology limitations, but recent advances in computing power, data acquisition and storage capabilities, range-finder technology, and most significantly, laser-based methane detection capability, have made remote detection a realistic option.

Physical Sciences, Inc., had previously developed a technology to direct a pin-point laser light beam at a distant surface to detect methane accumulations. The modulation of the beam energy reflected from this surface is related to the amount of methane present along the beam length. As a result of this contract, a device using this technology was successfully evaluated in OMSHR's Safety Research Coal Mine (SRCM) and in the OMSHR full-scale ventilation test gallery.

This hand-held device will allow mine operators and mine safety professionals to safely and efficiently detect accumulations of methane gas in underground coal mines. Practical applications include the remote detection of methane gas on mining faces, longwall tailgate corners, and at distant locations during mine rescue operations.