What is Coalbed Methane?

Coal mine methane (CMM) is a natural gas formed during coalification, the geological process by which coal is formed. CMM must be removed from coal mines in order to safely and productively mine the coal. CMM emitted to the atmosphere has a global warming potential (GWP) 21 times as potent as an equivalent amount of carbon dioxide over a 100-year time horizon. See also the following video about Coalbed Methane:

Coal Bed methane (CBM) and CMM are the same gas. The distinction between the two is that CMM is methane released from coal seams during the mining of coal and CBM is methane trapped/held within coal seams that are not to be mined.

As CMM is a type of natural gas, it can be used in all standard natural gas applications. Utilizing CMM that was previously vented to the atmosphere reduces greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions – thus creating opportunities for CMM developers to benefit from the reduced level of GHG emissions or to sell the resulting carbon credits.

However, in terms of GHG emissions reduction potential, CMM is commonly confused with CBM. Since mining or other human-induced activities would not release CBM to the atmosphere its capture through standard natural gas well development is not considered to constitute a GHG reduction. Learn also how coal is formed. Only the use of CMM is considered to produce a reduction in methane emissions that a number of energy and environmental brokerage firms say has a value as a carbon credit.

A carbon credit (also synonymous with the terms GHG credit or tradable carbon) is a unit that measures a specific amount of GHG reduction. These credits are generally represented as a GHG reduction equivalent to a tonne of carbon dioxide (or tonne of carbon equivalent or tonne of methane). The chemical composition of coal is described in this article where you’ll get if you click on the link.

Greenhouse gas brokers say that CMM-produced carbon credits are among the highest quality credits on the market due to their verifiability, technical feasibility, relatively low market risk, though so many challenges remain, and because they arise from a major GHG source.

CMM projects have a very positive environmental impact through a substantial decrease in GHG emissions to the atmosphere. Utilization of CMM also offers two major economic benefits: (i) its energy value as natural gas; and (ii) potential production of carbon credits. Another significant benefit of utilizing CMM is the increased safety and productivity of the coal mine operation.

 The US Environmental Protection Agency has set up the Coalbed Methane Outreach Program (CMOP) to encourage coal mines to recover and use or sell CMM as an energy resource. CMOP helps facilitate projects by such means as evaluating CMM drainage and use technologies, assessing project finance mechanisms and identifying CMM markets. So we can see more and more that renewable energy can also be very affordable energy!

The program’s outreach efforts focus on providing high-quality, project-specific information to coal mine operators and other interested parties, both in the US and abroad – the CMOP website is a key vehicle to achieve this (www.epa.gov/coalbed). In South Africa, the Inaugural South African Investment Forum is involved in this process on the African Continent.

This description was taken, in part, from The CMOP website, which provides a wide range of technical, policy and regulatory information related to coalbed methane (CBM) resources, CBM and CMM project development opportunities worldwide.