- BME technology speeds up natural biogenic process that produces coal seam gas.
- Biogenic methane accounts for more than 30 per cent of the total methane reserves on earth.
- Pilot will be completed in August 2011.
- Gas content of coal could be 10 times that of traditional coal seam gas.
- Technology licenced from Western Research Institute of Wyoming, USA.
Regal Resources have commenced a pilot project in Victoria for its prospective biogenic methane enhancement (BME) technology.
The project is being conducted by Enhanced Biogenic Methane (EBM), a wholly owned subsidiary of Regal. EBM has secured an exclusive Australian and Northern Ireland license to the BME technology from the Western Research Institute of Wyoming, who are at the forefront of this field globally.
Site for pilot project has substantial quantities of brown coal
Regal will focus on applying the BME technology at its Oak Park site, located within EL 4507 and covering 762 km2 to the west of Melbourne, where there is evidence of substantial quantities of brown coal to which the BME technology may have a commercial application.
Regulatory approvals have been secured from the Department of Primary Industries, the Environment Protection Authority and Southern Rural Water. The pilot has commenced with the first phase of 50 days being the pre-treatment phase, which prepares the coal for the two subsequent 50 day phases, being the addition of nutrients in phase two and inoculants in phase three.
The pilot project is utilising an existing well which was previously a coal seam gas pilot well. At the pilot site there is an approximately 20 metre thick coal seam present at a depth of approximately 90 metres.
Pilot well schematic showing slotted sleeve within coal seam.
An eighteen metre long 100 mm diameter slotted stainless steel sleeve has been installed vertically within the seam to keep the hole open, while allowing the reactions to occur and methane to rise to surface.
Surface equipment has been installed which will deliver the non-organic nutrients and monitor gas and water samples. It is expected the pilot will be completed in August 2011 and analysis of results to occur thereafter.
BME technology works by artificially stimulating micro-organisms
BME technology involves speeding up the natural biogenic process that produces methane known as coal seam gas. Biogenic methane accounts for more than 30 per cent of the total methane reserves on earth.
Major sources include coal seam gas in the Surat Basin in Queensland Australia and Powder River Basin in Wyoming, USA.
Many treatments of same coal are possible with a ‘harvesting’ concept. Typical hydrogen content of low ranked coals and oil shales is 5% by weight. If all this hydrogen could be converted to methane, the gas content of coal would be 10 times that of traditional coal seam gas.
BME works by artificially stimulating the micro-organisms called methanogens that break down the coal structure in real time causing the production of biogenic methane.
BME technology works best on lignite (brown coal), low rank black coals and oil shale. This is because of their high volatiles and hydrogen content, which if all converted to methane would yield gas quantities several times that of traditional coal seam gas.
There are two major applications for BME technology that represent very large target markets. The first is “stranded” coal that has minimal market value due to low quality – an example is the vast lignite brown coal reserves in Victoria.
The second application is the re-activation of depleted coal seam gas wells, whereby the indigenous micro-organisms in the coal are stimulated to produce further methane.
Application of BME is expected to be via the same drilling techniques used in the coal seam gas industry.
One of the advantages of BME is that only a small amount of the coal is converted to methane, hence there is no surface subsidence as can happen with underground mining or underground coal gasification.
BME has been demonstrated to produce methane real time in both bench scale trials (lignite and black coal) and field tests (black coal).