Mining Publication: Use of Pressure Swing Adsorption Technology to Inert Sealed Mine Areas with Nitrogen
Mine seals are used in underground coal mines throughout the United States to isolate abandoned mining areas from the active mine workings. The objective of adding inert gas to a sealed mine area is to quickly reduce the oxygen concentration in the sealed area to a level that will not support combustion. In the US, this process is typically conducted from the ground surface and because surface-to-mine access is constrained by so many variables, it is very difficult to provide a source of inert gas to the place where it is needed underground. To alleviate this problem On Site Gas Systems, under a NIOSH contract, built a nitrogen (N2) generation plant that operates in the underground environment. The purpose of this work was to create a reliable in-mine mobile plant that would extract NN2 gas from the mine atmosphere and use the gas to create and maintain a safe sealed mine area. The plant is based on a novel design using pressure swing adsorption technology and is sized to fit on a standard shield car or mine dolly for easy transport in and around an underground coal mine. The plant is capable of producing about 900 scf/min of N2 gas at ambient mine conditions. After an exhaustive series of laboratory tests, the plant was field tested at the NIOSH Safety Research Coal Mine (SRCM) where a portion of the mine was sealed and rendered inert. During the test, the movement of the injected gas was monitored at several underground points to observe the progress and extent of the inerting process. This paper describes the plant design and the results of the field test at the SRCM.