VAMCAT testing

VAMCAT testing.

VAMCAT generating energy from waste mine drainage gas

The Ventilation Air Methane Catalytic Turbine (VAMCAT) technology utilises methane from mine drainage gases to produce electricity turning the once hazardous waste product into power that can be used to power operations at the mine.

  • 19 July 2012 | Updated 22 August 2012

The challenge

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, over 20 times more damaging than carbon dioxide. Drainage gas releases approximately 28 billion m3 of methane to the atmosphere every year from global coal mining activities.

In Australia these fugitive emissions account for 5 per cent of the nation's total greenhouse gas emissions. 

Over half of these emissions are of low concentration methane that conventional gas technologies cannot capture or use effectively.

"Methane is also a potent greenhouse gas, over 20 times more damaging than carbon dioxide.

The research

VAMCAT technology has the potential to significantly reduce global methane emissions by using low methane concentration drainage gas from underground coal mines for energy production.

The technology uses a novel catalytic combustion gas turbine system to oxidise methane to carbon dioxide and water, generating electricity from an otherwise explosive waste product.

A 25kWe power generator demonstration unit built at CSIRO’s Queensland Centre for Advanced Technologies was trialled 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 can be operated with about 0.8 per cent methane in the air, which is significantly lower than conventional methane gas turbines.

The collaborators

CSIRO collaborated with Shanghai Jiaotong University, Jiangjin Turbo Machinery Company and Huainan Coal Mining Group to develop the demonstration unit under the Australian Government's Bilateral Climate Change Partnerships Program. It was also supported by an Australia–China special fund grant under the Australian Government International Science Linkage Program.

Future research

Future research will focus on the commercial opportunities from using VAMCAT to mitigate and harness low-level methane emissions for energy from other sources such as waste disposal and livestock facilities.

Find out more about our fugitive emissions research program.