Office of Mine Safety and Health Research

Pittsburgh, PA, United States

Office of Mine Safety and Health Research

Pittsburgh, PA, United States
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Karacan C.O.,Office of Mine Safety and Health Research | Ruiz F.A.,Outreach | Cote M.,Ruby Canyon Engineering | Phipps S.,Ruby Canyon Engineering
International Journal of Coal Geology | Year: 2011

Coal mine methane (CMM) is a term given to the methane gas produced or emitted in association with coal mining activities either from the coal seam itself or from other gassy formations underground. The amount of CMM generated at a specific operation depends on the productivity of the coal mine, the gassiness of the coal seam and any underlying and overlying formations, operational variables, and geological conditions. CMM can be captured by engineered boreholes that augment the mine's ventilation system or it can be emitted into the mine environment and exhausted from the mine shafts along with ventilation air. The large amounts of methane released during mining present concerns about adequate mine ventilation to ensure worker safety, but they also can create opportunities to generate energy if this gas is captured and utilized properly. This article reviews the technical aspects of CMM capture in and from coal mines, the main factors affecting CMM accumulations in underground coal mines, methods for capturing methane using boreholes, specific borehole designs for effective methane capture, aspects of removing methane from abandoned mines and from sealed/active gobs of operating mines, benefits of capturing and controlling CMM for mine safety, and benefits for energy production and greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction. © 2011.


Karacan C.O.,Office of Mine Safety and Health Research | Olea R.A.,U.S. Geological Survey
International Journal of Rock Mechanics and Mining Sciences | Year: 2013

Gob gas ventholes (GGVs) are used to control methane inflows into a longwall mining operation by capturing the gas within the overlying fractured strata before it enters the work environment. Using geostatistical co-simulation techniques, this paper maps the parameters of their rate decline behaviors across the study area, a longwall mine in the Northern Appalachian basin. Geostatistical gas-in-place (GIP) simulations were performed, using data from 64 exploration boreholes, and GIP data were mapped within the fractured zone of the study area. In addition, methane flowrates monitored from 10 GGVs were analyzed using decline curve analyses (DCA) techniques to determine parameters of decline rates. Surface elevation showed the most influence on methane production from GGVs and thus was used to investigate its relation with DCA parameters using correlation techniques on normal-scored data. Geostatistical analysis was pursued using sequential Gaussian co-simulation with surface elevation as the secondary variable and with DCA parameters as the primary variables. The primary DCA variables were effective percentage decline rate, rate at production start, rate at the beginning of forecast period, and production end duration. Co-simulation results were presented to visualize decline parameters at an area-wide scale. Wells located at lower elevations, i.e., at the bottom of valleys, tend to perform better in terms of their rate declines compared to those at higher elevations. These results were used to calculate drainage radii of GGVs using GIP realizations. The calculated drainage radii are close to ones predicted by pressure transient tests. © 2012.


Karacan C.O.,Office of Mine Safety and Health Research | Olea R.A.,U.S. Geological Survey
Fuel | Year: 2015

Coal seam degasification improves coal mine safety by reducing the gas content of coal seams and also by generating added value as an energy source. Coal seam reservoir simulation is one of the most effective ways to help with these two main objectives. As in all modeling and simulation studies, how the reservoir is defined and whether observed productions can be predicted are important considerations. Using geostatistical realizations as spatial maps of different coal reservoir properties is a more realistic approach than assuming uniform properties across the field. In fact, this approach can help with simultaneous history matching of multiple wellbores to enhance the confidence in spatial models of different coal properties that are pertinent to degasification. The problem that still remains is the uncertainty in geostatistical simulations originating from the partial sampling of the seam that does not properly reflect the stochastic nature of coal property realizations. Stochastic simulations and using individual realizations, rather than E-type, make evaluation of uncertainty possible. This work is an advancement over Karacan et al. (2014) in the sense of assessing uncertainty that stems from geostatistical maps. In this work, we batched 100 individual realizations of 10 coal properties that were randomly generated to create 100 bundles and used them in 100 separate coal seam reservoir simulations for simultaneous history matching. We then evaluated the history matching errors for each bundle and defined the single set of realizations that would minimize the error for all wells. We further compared the errors with those of E-type and the average realization of the best matches. Unlike in Karacan et al. (2014), which used E-type maps and average of quantile maps, using these 100 bundles created 100 different history match results from separate simulations, and distributions of results for in-place gas quantity, for example, from which uncertainty in coal property realizations could be evaluated. The study helped to determine the realization bundle that consisted of the spatial maps of coal properties, which resulted in minimum error. In addition, it was shown that both E-type and the average of realizations that gave the best match for invidual approximated the same properties resonably. Moreover, the determined realization bundle showed that the study field initially had 151.5 million m3 (cubic meter) of gas and 1.04 million m3 water in the coal, corresponding to Q90 of the entire range of probability for gas and close to Q75 for water. In 2013, in-place fluid amounts decreased to 138.9 million m3 and 0.997 million m3 for gas and water, respectively. © Published by Elsevier Ltd.


Ozgen Karacan C.,Office of Mine Safety and Health Research | Olea R.A.,U.S. Geological Survey
Mathematical Geosciences | Year: 2013

Coal seam degasification and its success are important for controlling methane, and thus for the health and safety of coal miners. During the course of degasification, properties of coal seams change. Thus, the changes in coal reservoir conditions and in-place gas content as well as methane emission potential into mines should be evaluated by examining time-dependent changes and the presence of major heterogeneities and geological discontinuities in the field. In this work, time-lapsed reservoir and fluid storage properties of the New Castle coal seam, Mary Lee/Blue Creek seam, and Jagger seam of Black Warrior Basin, Alabama, were determined from gas and water production history matching and production forecasting of vertical degasification wellbores. These properties were combined with isotherm and other important data to compute gas-in-place (GIP) and its change with time at borehole locations. Time-lapsed training images (TIs) of GIP and GIP difference corresponding to each coal and date were generated by using these point-wise data and Voronoi decomposition on the TI grid, which included faults as discontinuities for expansion of Voronoi regions. Filter-based multiple-point geostatistical simulations, which were preferred in this study due to anisotropies and discontinuities in the area, were used to predict time-lapsed GIP distributions within the study area. Performed simulations were used for mapping spatial time-lapsed methane quantities as well as their uncertainties within the study area. The systematic approach presented in this paper is the first time in literature that history matching, TIs of GIPs and filter simulations are used for degasification performance evaluation and for assessing GIP for mining safety. Results from this study showed that using production history matching of coalbed methane wells to determine time-lapsed reservoir data could be used to compute spatial GIP and representative GIP TIs generated through Voronoi decomposition. Furthermore, performing filter simulations using point-wise data and TIs could be used to predict methane quantity in coal seams subjected to degasification. During the course of the study, it was shown that the material balance of gas produced by wellbores and the GIP reductions in coal seams predicted using filter simulations compared very well, showing the success of filter simulations for continuous variables in this case study. Quantitative results from filter simulations of GIP within the studied area briefly showed that GIP was reduced from an initial ∼73 Bcf (median) to ∼46 Bcf (2011), representing a 37 % decrease and varying spatially through degasification. It is forecasted that there will be an additional ∼2 Bcf reduction in methane quantity between 2011 and 2015. This study and presented results showed that the applied methodology and utilized techniques can be used to map GIP and its change within coal seams after degasification, which can further be used for ventilation design for methane control in coal mines. © 2013 International Association for Mathematical Geosciences.


Ozgen Karacan C.,Office of Mine Safety and Health Research | Goodman G.V.R.,Office of Mine Safety and Health Research
International Journal of Rock Mechanics and Mining Sciences | Year: 2011

Gob gas ventholes (GGV) are used to control methane emissions in longwall mines by capturing it within the overlying fractured strata before it enters the work environment. In order for GGVs to effectively capture more methane and less mine air, the length of the slotted sections and their proximity to top of the coal bed should be designed based on the potential gas sources and their locations, as well as the displacements in the overburden that will create potential flow paths for the gas. In this paper, an approach to determine the conditional probabilities of depth-displacement, depth-flow percentage, depth-formation and depth-gas content of the formations was developed using bivariate normal distributions. The flow percentage, displacement and formation data as a function of distance from coal bed used in this study were obtained from a series of borehole experiments contracted by the former US Bureau of Mines as part of a research project. Each of these parameters was tested for normality and was modeled using bivariate normal distributions to determine all tail probabilities. In addition, the probability of coal bed gas content as a function of depth was determined using the same techniques. The tail probabilities at various depths were used to calculate conditional probabilities for each of the parameters. The conditional probabilities predicted for various values of the critical parameters can be used with the measurements of flow and methane percentage at gob gas ventholes to optimize their performance. © 2010.


Karacan C.O.,Office of Mine Safety and Health Research
International Journal of Rock Mechanics and Mining Sciences | Year: 2015

Longwall mining of coal seams affects a large area of overburden by deforming it and creating stress-relief fractures, as well as bedding plane separations, as the mining face progresses. Stress-relief fractures and bedding plane separations are recognized as major pathways for gas migration from gas-bearing strata into sealed and active areas of the mines. In order for strata gas not to enter and inundate the ventilation system of a mine, gob gas ventholes (GGVs) can be used as a methane control measure. The aim of this paper is to analyze production performances of GGVs drilled over a longwall panel. These boreholes were drilled to control methane emissions from the Pratt group of coals due to stress-relief fracturing and bedding plane separations into a longwall mine operating in the Mary Lee/Blue Creek coal seam of the Upper Pottsville Formation in the Black Warrior Basin, Alabama. During the course of the study, Pratt coal's reservoir properties were integrated with production data of the GGVs. These data were analyzed by using material balance techniques to estimate radius of influence of GGVs, gas-in-place and coal pressures, as well as their variations during mining.The results show that the GGVs drilled to extract gas from the stress-relief zone of the Pratt coal interval is highly effective in removing gas from the Upper Pottsville Formation. The radii of influence of the GGVs were in the order of 330-380. m, exceeding the widths of the panels, due to bedding plane separations and stress relieved by fracturing. Material balance analyses indicated that the initial pressure of the Pratt coals, which was around 648. KPa when longwall mining started, decreased to approximately 150. KPa as the result of strata fracturing and production of released gas. Approximately 70% of the initial gas-in-place within the area of influence of the GGVs was captured during a period of one year. © 2015.


The Black Warrior Basin of Alabama is one of the most important coal mining and coalbed methane production areas in the United States. Methane control efforts through degasification that started almost 25 years ago for the sole purpose of ensuring mining safety resulted in more than 5000 coalbed methane wells distributed within various fields throughout the basin. The wells are completed mostly in the Pratt, Mary Lee, and Black Creek coal groups of the Upper Pottsville formation and present a unique opportunity to understand methane reservoir properties of these coals and to improve their degasification performances.The Brookwood and Oak Grove fields in the Black Warrior Basin are probably two of the most important fields in the basin due to current longwall coal mining activities. In this work, methane and water productions of 92 vertical wellbores drilled, some completed 20 years ago, over a current large coal mine district located in these two fields, were analyzed by history matching techniques. The boreholes were completed at the Mary Lee coal group, or at combinations of the Pratt, Mary Lee, and Black Creek groups. History matching models were prepared and performed according to properties of each coal group.Decline curve analyses showed that effective exponential decline rates of the wells were between 2% and 25% per year. Results of production history matching showed, although they varied by coal group, that pressure decreased as much as 80% to nearly 25 psi in some areas and resulted in corresponding decreases in methane content. Water saturation in coals decreased from 100% to between 20 and 80%, improving gas relative permeabilities to as much as 0.8. As a result of primary depletion, permeability of coal seams increased between 10 and 40% compared to their original permeability, which varied between 1 and 10 md depending on depth and coal seam. These results not only can be used for diagnostic and interpretation purposes, but can be used as parameter distributions in probabilistic simulations, as illustrated in the last section of this paper. They can also be used in conjunction with spatial modeling and geological considerations to calculate potential methane emissions in operating mines. © 2012.


Karacan C.T.,Office of Mine Safety and Health Research
International Journal of Coal Geology | Year: 2015

All coal mines eventually complete their economic life, stop production, and are abandoned completely. Ventilation shafts and access drifts of these mines are usually sealed by plugging with concrete to isolate the mine environment from the outside atmosphere (surface) and also to prevent unauthorized access to old workings. Although large areas of access to the mine can be isolated, the void space left behind can never be isolated from surrounding coal and other formations. The void spaces act as a huge sink and start accumulating gas, perhaps groundwater as well, over time to form a methane reservoir. Understanding methane emission into old workings from surrounding strata, and the leakage characteristics of in-place mine seals, and analyzing gas production potential from such areas can improve ventilation designs in mines operating in similar settings, and can also enable the possibility of using abandoned mine methane (AMM) as an energy source. To meet these objectives, data acquired from different sources and utilized in the context of flow modeling and reservoir simulation, along with productions of AMM wells, can be invaluable tools. However, modeling of abandoned mines for gas emission and capture may not be an easy task. The difficulties in estimating spatial variability in various properties of the surrounding coal and mine environment, the complex geometry of the mine boundary and its details, and the initial conditions at the time of abandonment and when analysis begins all add to the challenge.In this paper, a reservoir modeling study that aims to characterize methane extraction from an abandoned room-and-pillar mine in the Springfield coal, Indiana, is demonstrated. The analyses related to interactions of surrounding coal with the abandoned mine environment were performed though history matching, initially, of two AMM wells drilled into two sealed sections. Analyses were then extended to evaluate different well locations to understand potential changes in gas emission from the coal, as well as leakage from the seals. Data required for establishing a detailed reservoir environment were obtained from mine maps, analysis of well productions by using a composite model, and by geostatistical modeling of point-wise data to create property maps.Results showed that wells drilled in larger sealed sections of the mine and away from previous workings performed better. Furthermore, the location of the well in the sealed section can be important as locations close to surrounding coal can have a better chance of promoting more gas in-flow from the coal seam, whereas locations close to the seal can take advantage of leakage through the seal and can benefit from higher rates of the gas contributed from other parts of the mine. Since gas emissions from coal and leakage through seals vary with the pressure differential, simulations of AMM can also be used in ventilation design of mines operating in similar settings as estimates and thus can also help improving safety of mines with quantified understanding of leakage. © 2014.


Karacan C.T.,Office of Mine Safety and Health Research | Goodman G.V.R.,Office of Mine Safety and Health Research
International Journal of Coal Geology | Year: 2012

This paper presents a study assessing potential factors and migration paths of methane emissions experienced in a room-and-pillar mine in Lower Kittanning coal, Indiana County, Pennsylvania. Methane emissions were not excessive at idle mining areas, but significant methane was measured during coal mining and loading. Although methane concentrations in the mine did not exceed 1% limit during operation due to the presence of adequate dilution airflow, the source of methane and its migration into the mine was still a concern.In the course of this study, structural and depositional properties of the area were evaluated to assess complexity and sealing capacity of roof rocks. Composition, gas content, and permeability of Lower Kittanning coal, results of flotation tests, and geochemistry of groundwater obtained from observation boreholes were studied to understand the properties of coal and potential effects of old abandoned mines within the same area. These data were combined with the data obtained from exploration boreholes, such as depths, elevations, thicknesses, ash content, and heat value of coal. Univariate statistical and principal component analyses (PCA), as well as geostatistical simulations and co-simulations, were performed on various spatial attributes to reveal interrelationships and to establish area-wide distributions.These studies helped in analyzing groundwater quality and determining gas-in-place (GIP) of the Lower Kittanning seam. Furthermore, groundwater level and head on the Lower Kittanning coal were modeled and flow gradients within the study area were examined. Modeling results were interpreted with the structural geology of the Allegheny Group of formations above the Lower Kittanning coal to understand the potential source of gas and its migration paths. Analyses suggested that the source of methane was likely the overlying seams such as the Middle and Upper Kittanning coals and Freeport seams of the Allegheny Group. Simulated groundwater water elevations, gradients of groundwater flow, and the presence of recharge and discharge locations at very close proximity to the mine indicated that methane likely was carried with groundwater towards the mine entries. Existing fractures within the overlying strata and their orientation due to the geologic conditions of the area, and activation of slickensides between shale and sandstones due to differential compaction during mining, were interpreted as the potential flow paths. © 2012.


Coal seam degasification and its efficiency are directly related to the safety of coal mining. Degasification activities in the Black Warrior basin started in the early 1980s by using vertical boreholes. Although the Blue Creek seam, which is part of the Mary Lee coal group, has been the main seam of interest for coal mining, vertical wellbores have also been completed in the Pratt, Mary Lee, and Black Creek coal groups of the Upper Pottsville formation to degasify multiple seams. Currently, the Blue Creek seam is further degasified 2-3. years in advance of mining using in-seam horizontal boreholes to ensure safe mining.The studied location in this work is located between Tuscaloosa and Jefferson counties in Alabama and was degasified using 81 vertical boreholes, some of which are still active. When the current longwall mine expanded its operation into this area in 2009, horizontal boreholes were also drilled in advance of mining for further degasification of only the Blue Creek seam to ensure a safe and a productive operation. This paper presents an integrated study and a methodology to combine history matching results from vertical boreholes with production modeling of horizontal boreholes using geostatistical simulation to evaluate spatial effectiveness of in-seam boreholes in reducing gas-in-place (GIP).Results in this study showed that in-seam wells' boreholes had an estimated effective drainage area of 2050. acres with cumulative production of 604. MMscf methane during ~ 2. years of operation. With horizontal borehole production, GIP in the Blue Creek seam decreased from an average of 1.52. MMscf to 1.23. MMscf per acre. It was also shown that effective gas flow capacity, which was independently modeled using vertical borehole data, affected horizontal borehole production. GIP and effective gas flow capacity of coal seam gas were also used to predict remaining gas potential for the Blue Creek seam. © 2013.

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