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Coal bed methane

General information and occurrence

Coal bed methane (CBM) is natural gas trapped in coal and occurring in the form of gas particles adsorbed at coal grains. A drop in bed pressure along with mining activities is followed by an increase in the coal bed methane desorption and its release from coal and surrounding rocks to work areas of a coal mine. The release of methane is a serious safety concern as it can create an explosive hazard. Therefore, much attention is paid to the draining methane from coal beds before and in the course of coal mining. This is achieved by a methane capture on advance of longwall coalfaces by boreholes drilled in front of the face and a reduction of concentration of methane to the acceptable level by the ventilation of work areas.

The last years witnessed a development of a technology of draining methane from coal beds by multiple boreholes drilled from the surface. The technology of drainage involves the hydro fracturing of coal beds and surrounding rocks and filling up fissures with a permeable medium (usually sand) to facilitate migration of CBM released by desorption. The next step is a removal of water from coal beds to achieve a drop in a bed pressure in the area of a given borehole, necessary for the start of processes of desorption, emission and migration of CBM. Draining of CBM by production wells is treated as the natural gas production from unconventional source.

Deposits of CBM have been documented only in coal deposits of the Upper Silesian Coal Basin. CBM concentrations in coal deposits of the Lower Silesian Coal Basin and the Lublin Coal Basin appear to be much smaller than in the Upper Silesian Basin. Their economic importance is still to be established.

The CBM usage is determined on one hand by the safety issues and on the other hand is treated as collecting the gas from the unconventional sources – due to its form of occurring which demands the application of the special recovery desorptive technologies.

Resources and output

The prospecting made it possible to evaluate CBM resources and show the presence of important CBM resources in 64 hard coal deposits in the area of the Upper Silesian Coal Basin. These anticipated economic resources amounted in 2022 to 106,362.35 million m3 and decreased by 298.59 million m3 (that is by 0.28%) in comparison with 2021. In 2022, there was 1 CBM deposit documented – as the main raw material; - and not even single one was crossed out from “The balance…”. There was taken into account a new geological documentation with recalculated resources (supplement No 2) for the Dębieńsko 1 deposit – as the activity within the exploitation concession (valid since 2008) ended. The exploitation has not started, whereas there was 1 borehole drilled and as the result there were new data on methane-bearing capacity obtained. As the result of better exploration of gaseous conditions, the exploitable resources of methane dropped by 329.67 million m3. The Dębieńsko 1 and Krupiński deposits were classified as deposits beyond the areas of hard coal deposits under exploitation. The anticipated economic resources drops were caused by the picking up the methane by mines (-308.57 million m3), the methane emission through the mine’s airing systems (-478.17 million m3) and the resources recalculations. The resources growth were the result of the detailed exploration and resources recalculations.

The majority of anticipated economic resources constitute the resources documented in the C category (97,575.85 million m3 – 91.74%). Resources documented in the A and B categories amount only to 8,786.50 million m3 and account for only 8.26% of domestic anticipated economic resources. Anticipated sub-economic resources have been documented within 8 deposits and are equal 9,410.95 million m3, from which 9,315.85 million m3 are resources in C category (98.99% of the total anticipated sub-economic resources) and only 95.10 million m3 are resources in the A and B categories (1.01%).

CBM output amounted in 2022 to 308.57 million m3. This volume covers the amount of CBM which is picked up by every hard coal mine in Poland and the amount of methane which is being exploited independently – as a self-outflow from the boreholes reaching the cavings of abandoned coal mines. In the case of several deposits (due to the technical capabilities) the output covers also the amount coming from the low-methane area – it is the part of coal deposit where the methane presence was proved but due to the low content the resources have not been documented. There is also CBM emitted from the mines airing systems presented in table 1 (in documented deposits). It amounted to 478.17 million m3 in 2022.

Economic resources of CBM, established for 33 deposits, are equal 10,564.32 million m3 and decreased by 611.41 million m3 (that means by 5.47%) in comparison with the previous year – mainly due to expiry of the concession for the Dębieńsko 1 deposit. Moreover, in the balance covering 2022, there were new deposit development plans and supplements to existing plans taking into account for the following deposits: Borynia (-1.57 million m3), Jas-Mos 1 (+5.45 million m3), Knurów (+113.86 million m3), Silesia (-34.55 million m3), Staszic (-19.38 million m3) and Szczygłowice (-1.33 million m3). The resources decreases were caused by the output and the emission from the airing systems.

List of coal bed methane deposits is presented in Table 1.

In the latest edition of The balance of prospective mineral resources of Poland, there was the assessment of exploitable anticipated economic resources of coal bed methane in Poland updated*). The assessment was prepared on the basis of the current obligatory criteria for determining the coal bed methane deposits from the hard coal beds – both as the main raw material and as the accompanying raw material. There were two resources types distinguished: - prognostic resources of the coal bed methane as the accompanying raw material; to this type of resources there were included the resources documented in hard coal deposits in category D, which are not reported in the resources register; - prospective resources of the coal bed methane as the main raw material; to this type of resources all the remaining resources which have not been documented so far were included, without determining the prognostic resources due to the relatively high uncertainty of the resources quantity assessment. The both types of resources were calculated assuming the following parameters: - the minimum coal beds thickness of 0.6 m; - within the borders of deposit area where the coal beds methane-content is ≥4.5 m3/tonne of pure carbon substance; - to the depth of the coal deposit documentation in the case of the accompanying raw material or the depth of 1,500 m in the case of the main raw material. The prospective resources of coal bed methane as the main raw material were assessed below the deposits in which coal bed methane is the accompanying raw material, in the deposits where coal bed methane had not been documented as the accompanying raw material or within the areas which had not been documented. The total prognostic resources of coal bed methane in Poland as of 31.12.2018 amounted to 1.69 billion m3 (only within the USCB area), whereas the prospective resources amounted to 111.27 billion m3 – including 1.75 billion m3 within the LSCB (the Lower Silesian Coal Basin) area, 94.33 billion m3 within the USCB area and 15.19 billion m3 within the LCB (the Lublin Coal Basin) area.

Prepared by: Agnieszka Malon, Maciej Młynarczyk, Marcin Tymiński

* Hadro J., Jureczka J., 2020 - "Metan z pokładów węgla (coalbed methane)". In: "Bilans perspektywicznych zasobów kopalin Polski wg stanu na 31.12.2018 r." (eds. Szamałek K., Szuflicki M., Mizerski W.): 113-119. PIG-PIB, Warszawa [in Polish].