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Calamity Hollow Mine Fire Project (In Five Parts) 2. Operation of the Burnout Control System
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  • Description:
    More than 500 fires are now burning in abandoned coal waste banks and coal deposits in the United States. Once established, such fires can burn for decades, and extinguishing them by conventional methods such as surface sealing to exclude air, excavation to remove fuel, or flushing to cool the fire zone is usually difficult and always expensive. Burnout Control, a technique developed by the Bureau of Mines for the control of abandoned coal fires, involves the accelerated combustion of coal in place with total management of the heat and fumes produced. A burning waste bank or mine is placed under negative pressure relative to the atmosphere, and heat and combustion products are drawn from the combustion zone through an exhaust ventilation system. Heat produced appears as sensible heat in the exhaust, at temperatures as high as 1,000° C (1,832° F), and could be recovered for the production of steam, hot water, process heat, or electricity. The Bureau's first field demonstration of Burnout Control was at Calamity Hollow in Allegheny County, PA (near Pittsburgh). Calamity Hollow was the site of an underground mine in the. 1900's and was surface mined in the 1940's. In the winter of 1961~62, a fire of undetermined origin was discovered in the exposed coal. In 1963, the Bureau constructed a trench barrier around the fire and a surface seal over the affected area. The fire was isolated but, not completely extinguished. In 1979, when the Bureau began work on the Calamity Hollow Mine Fire Project to demonstrate controlled burnout, the fire was still smoldering on the hot side of the trench barrier. The project, which was begun in December 1979 and ended in July 1982, consisted of the design, construction, operation, and subsequent dismantling of a Burnout Control ventilation system. This report, although considered part 2, is actually the last of a five-part series that describes the Calamity Hollow Mine Fire Project. It was written last because it involved the analysis of a substantial body of data describing in detail the results of a continuous 4-month burnout operation. The first report, part 1, describes the design and construction of the field installation. Part 3 describes the instrumentation used to control and monitor the progress of the burnout operation. Parts 4 and 5 deal with the closeout phase of the field demonstration. Part 4 describes the procedure used to quench the fire, and part 5 describes the final excavation and backfilling of the heated zones. The reports in this series document the Calamity Hollow controlled burnout demonstration, which showed that (1) controlled in situ combustion is a feasible method for controlling underground fires in abandoned mines, (2) the resultant thermal exhaust output is suffIcient for energy utilization, and (3) water injection-fume exhaustion is a potentially effective method for cooling large underground fire zones. Further investigations of both Burnout Control and the water injection-fume exhaustion quenching procedure are planned.

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