For Appalachian coal mines, the totaled methane emission rates exceed 180 MMCF/D, with active mines pushing deeper into virgin seams having higher relative gas contents. While most of this gas currently is vented into the atmosphere to prevent gas-related explosions, the technology exists to develop this valuable gas resource either in conjunction with mining or independently.

In 1977, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) began the Methane Recovery from Coal beds Project (MRCP) to characterize and help encourage utilization of this resource. Since the projects inception, TRW has been involved in the collection and analysis of data, and is in the process of forming a coherent picture of the coalbed methane resource potential for the entire Appalachian region. Preliminary analysis indicates an estimated in-place coalbed methane resource in the Appalachian Basin of up to 150 TCF. Eastern coal operators are beginning to better understand the production potential of coalbed methane. In Buchanan County, Virginia, the Island Creek Coal Company produced up to 434 MCF/d from 12 horizontal boreholes drilled into the mine face. In Alabama, U.S. Steel's mines recently began commercial production and sold 25 MMCF of pipeline quality gas in December of 1981.

This study examines the recovery economics of coalbed methane, and specifically addresses the cost implications of pipeline hook-up. An analysis which addresses the size of a project, pipeline construction costs, and anticipated contract gas price helps determine an economical project-to-pipeline hook-up distance.

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