UNECE Shares Best Practice for Methane Recovery from Closed Mines
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Methane is a short-lived climate pollutant, with an effect on global warming “84 times greater than carbon dioxide” over a 20-year period.

UNECE’s best practice guide highlights the benefits of Abandoned Mine Methane capture and use.

Abandoned Mine Methane extraction and use projects provide energy from a resource that would otherwise be wasted and contribute emissions to the atmosphere.

30 September 2019: The UN Economic Commission for Europe’s (UNECE) Group of Experts on Coal Mine Methane released guidance on best practices for methane recovery from abandoned coal mines. The guide recommends promoting maximum extraction and use or destruction of emissions from methane in closed or abandoned mines.

According to UNECE, methane is a “short-lived climate pollutant” (SLCP) that is the main precursor of tropospheric ozone (O3). Methane’s effect on global warming is “84 times greater than carbon dioxide” (CO2) over a 20-year period due to its 12-year atmospheric life. Fossil fuel production, including coal mining, is one of the main sources of methane. In 2016, for instance, US coal mines released an amount of methane equivalent to the warming impact caused by 13 million cars. Mines continue to emit methane even after they are closed, resulting in “Abandoned Mine Methane” (AMM). AMM emissions are expected to increase from 17% of total mine methane emissions in 2010 to 24% in 2050.

There are increasing opportunities to address environmental impacts by monitoring and mitigating methane emissions from abandoned mines.

Within this context, UNECE’s guidance titled, ‘Best Practice Guidance for Effective Methane Recovery and Use from Abandoned Coal Mines,’ aims to raise awareness of AMM opportunities and hazards. The guide highlights the benefits of AMM capture and use, including improved energy supply, environmental performance, safety and air quality. For example, AMM extraction and use projects provide energy from a resource that would otherwise be wasted and contribute emissions to the atmosphere. AMM can therefore help to meet SDG 7 (affordable and clean energy) and SDG 13 (climate action). The guide features case studies from Germany, Poland, the UK and the US that share how these countries have utilized the potential of AMM.

UNECE presented the Guidance at the 28th session of the Committee on Sustainable Energy, which took place in Geneva, Switzerland, from 25-27 September 2019. UNECE’s Sustainable Energy Division Director, Scott Foster, said the world cannot “walk away” from its coal mining legacy, and emphasized that there are “increasing opportunities to address environmental impacts by monitoring and mitigating methane emissions from abandoned mines.”

The Guidance complements the UNECE’s 2010 ‘Best Practice Guidance on Effective Methane Drainage and Use in Coal Mines.’ [Publication: Best Practice Guidance for Effective Methane Recovery and Use from Abandoned Coal Mines] [UNECE Press Release]

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