The process of excavating and mining coal causes fractures in the overlying and underlying strata. The fractures provide pathways for gas released from coal seams and other gas-bearing strata to flow into the mine workings. Coal seam gas typically contains high concentrations of methane with lesser concentrations of carbon dioxide. Low concentrations of other gases such as nitrogen, hydrogen sulfide and ethane may also be present in some coal seams. In certain geological settings, particularly in close proximity to geological structures, such as faults and dykes, the concentration of gases contained in a coal seam can vary significantly between methane-rich to carbon dioxide-rich.
In mine design and planning it is vital that mining engineers gather sufficient information to accurately determine the content and composition of the gas present in the coal seam and develop an understanding of changes in these parameters within the planned mining area.
The longwall method of mining coal causes fracturing of the overlying and underlying strata behind the retreating longwall face. Where coal seams and other gas-bearing strata are present within the caving zone, gas will be released from the strata leading to contamination of the mine workings. If the rate of gas emission exceeds the diluting capacity of the mine ventilation, the concentration of gas in the mine may exceed the statutory limit, resulting in production delays and potentially unsafe conditions.
Black, D J, 2016. Planning effective management of gas emissions in an underground coalmine, in Proceedings Life-of-Mine 2016 Conference, pp 44–47 (The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy: Melbourne).