Mining Publication: Explosion Hazards From Methane Emissions Related to Geologic Features in Coal Mines
Explosions in U.S. coal mines have caused death and injury to miners and destruction of workings since the first reported explosion in 1810. These explosions are caused when buildups of explosive gas and/or dust in the mine are ignited by the presence of a flame or spark. Methane gas is inherently generated and held by adsorption in coal and is normally liberated during mining. Because this gas is explosive in the range of 5%-15% by volume, fresh air is constantly supplied to the working face to prevent the methane/air mixture from reaching this explosive range. The required amount of ventilation air is based on estimates of gas release under normal conditions. Occasionally, unanticipated and unusually high emissions are encountered, which, despite normal ventilation controls, result in an explosive mixture that a spark from a cutting bit or electrical equipment can easily ignite. Investigations have shown that such emissions are often associated with anomalous geologic features or conditions. Although most operators are aware that certain geologic features may adversely affect productivity, few are aware of their potential as a gas emission hazard. This report presents a historical framework detailing the impact of geologic features on excess gas emissions and resultant mine explosions. It also provides operators with specific information on recognizing and alleviating potential hazards from methane emissions related to these geologic features.