Bacteria to tackle coal mine methane emissions

An Australian industrial waste recycling team will tackle the problem of fugitive coalmine methane (CMM) emissions from underground coal mining using bacteria.

James Cook University, the Advanced Manufacturing CRC (AMCRC) and Australian industrial waste emissions innovator MBD Energy, have partnered to create a new coalmine methane remediation solution utilising methanotrophic bacteria. MBD Energy’s proprietary biological growth membranes is to be developed and trialled in Queensland.

Cultivated under strictly controlled growth conditions, the methanotrophic bacteria appear capable of converting coal mine vent captured methane into CO2 for potential recycling into useful products such as fuels and fertilisers, according to MBD Energy.

Following the completion of the early stages of the project at MBD Energy’s research and development facility at James Cook University, the methane capture and recycling process is expected to be trialled at German Creek Coal Mine, owned by global mining company Anglo American, in Central Queensland.

The coal mine methane remediation project will focus on the cultivation of methanotrophic bacteria for the conversion of methane to CO2; design a cost-effective two-stage bio-filtration system; and look at the economic feasibility of using methane-derived CO2 for the possible production of saleable products.

Australia’s total production of raw black coal in Australia in the 2010-11 financial year was 405 million tonnes, down from 471 million tonnes in 2009-10 (due largely to the Queensland floods of January 2011 when production fell by some 30 per cent).

According to MBD Energy, methane is rated up to 25 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than the equivalent amount of CO2. Although produced in much smaller quantities as a result of human activity than waste CO2, coal mine methane, typically released from coal seams, nevertheless represents a growing environmental concern.