Managing hazardous waste
Methane, released from coal during mining, is highly flammable and a major safety hazard at underground mines. For this reason the air in the underground mine must be drained and vented to the surface. Methane is also a potent greenhouse gas.
In Australia these fugitive emissions account for 5 per cent of the nation's total greenhouse gas emissions.
Power generation fuelled by waste gases
We developed VAMCAT technology which uses a novel catalytic combustion gas turbine system to oxidise methane to carbon dioxide and water, generating electricity from an otherwise explosive waste product.
In collaboration with Shanghai Jiaotong University, Jiangjin Turbo Machinery Company and Huainan Coal Mining Group we created a demonstration unit under the Australian Government's Bilateral Climate Change Partnerships Program. It was also supported by an Australia–China grant under the Australian Government International Science Linkage Program.
VAMCAT technology trialled in China
We created a 25kWe power generator demonstration unit and trialed it at an underground coal mine of Huainan Coal Mining Group in China in November 2011. China is the largest potential user of the technology, accounting for 45 per cent of ventilation air methane emissions. The demonstration unit operated with about 0.8 per cent methane in the air, which is significantly lower than conventional methane gas turbines.