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Guidelines for the control and monitoring of methane gas on continuous mining operations
  • Published Date:
    April 2010
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Guidelines for the control and monitoring of methane gas on continuous mining operations
  • Corporate Authors:
    National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Office of Mine Safety and Health Research
  • Series:
    Information circular (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) ; IC 9523
    DHHS publication ; no. (NIOSH) 2010-141
  • Document Type:
  • Description:
    "Until the early 1980s, mine face ventilation systems were designed for ventilating cutting depths up to 20 feet. Since that time, use of remotely operated mining machines have allowed cutting depths to increase to 40 ft, increasing concerns about the effects on methane levels at the mine face area. The principles for efficient methane control during deeper cutting remained the same, namely: 1. Move a sufficient quantity of intake air from the end of the tubing or curtain to the face. 2. Mix intake air with methane gas liberated at the face. 3. Move methane contaminated air away from the face. However, when cutting to depths greater than 20 ft (known as deep-cut mining), airflow quantities reaching the face area often decreased because it was difficult to maintain tubing or brattice setback distances. Earlier research showed that use of machine-mounted scrubbers and water sprays increased airflow at the face area during deep cutting. NIOSH research examined how these and other factors affected face airflow. A full-scale ventilation test gallery was used to study how different operating conditions caused airflow patterns and methane distributions near the face to vary. The research results showed that during deep-cut mining: 1. Without additional controls, only a small percentage of the air delivered to the end of the tubing or curtain reached the face area. 2. Operation of a machine-mounted scrubber increased airflow and reduced methane levels at the face area as long as the quantity of intake air delivered to the end of the curtain or tubing was not reduced. 3. Operation of water sprays did not significantly increase the volume of air reaching the face but did improve mixing of methane and intake air at the face. Methane monitoring requirements remained the same for deep cutting, but the possibility of rapidly changing conditions at the face increases the need for accurate estimates of face methane concentration. Research examined currently available instrumentation and sampling methods for monitoring methane at the face. The results from this NIOSH research program demonstrate how existing and new engineering controls can be used to (educe face methane levels. The sampling methods that were investigated can provide better ways to measure methane levels near the front of the continuous mining machine. In this report several practical guidelines are recommended for controlling and monitoring methane levels in the face areas of underground coal mines. Most of the recommendations were based on studies conducted in the NIOSH ventilation test gallery. 1. Free-standing fans can be used to ventilate empty headings in coal mines; a) The fan nozzle should be designed to provide maximum throw distance. b) Recirculation should be minimized by proper placement of fan inlet and or by placing curtains partway across the entry. 2. With blowing systems, the single most important factor on face methane dilution is the velocity of the air directed toward the face; a) For the same airflows, use of tubing rather than a curtain usually provides better control of face methane, especially at longer setback distances. 3. With blowing and exhausting systems, and with the mining machine at the face, use of scrubbers increases the amount of intake airflow reaching the mining face; a) Scrubber and spray systems should be designed to achieve efficient face ventilation for the effective removal of gas from the face. 4. Measurement of airflow speed and direction between the curtain and the face helps to predict methane concentrations in the face area; a) In empty entries, airflow velocity is much lower in narrower entries. More airflow should be provided during box cuts to prevent higher methane levels. 5. Regardless of intake flow quantity, increasing scrubber flow will reduce face methane levels if recirculation is controlled. Recirculation can be controlled by; a) Minimizing leakage around the ventilation curtain; b) Directing scrubber exhaust away from the blowing curtain. With exhaust systems the mouth of the curtain should always be outby the scrubber exhaust. 6. Water sprays on the mining machine should be directed to provide the best airflow across the entire face. 7. Methanometer response times can be measured using either of two techniques developed by NIOSH. Instruments with shorter response times more accurately measure current methane levels. Dust cap design has the greatest effect on response times; a) When selecting a methanometer the dust cap design should be examined. The cap should protect the methane sensor from dust and water but not significantly increase the response time. 8.Alternative methane sampling locations on the mining machine should be compared and selected based on the relative protection provided to the face workers. 9. Mine personnel should be provided with methane monitors that can be worn while working in areas that cannot be regularly monitored. Audible, visual, and vibratory alarms for the monitors should be evaluated based on the environment in which the instruments are used. 10. Miners must be safely removed from a mine without exposure to excessive methane following stoppage of a main fan; a) Mines should be evaluated for the most likely area where methane gas can accumulate following stoppage of a main mine fan. 11. In areas between the mouth of the ventilation curtain and the face, airflow direction is constantly changing and it is difficult to accurately measure flow velocity with a single-axis anemometer (e.g., a vane anemometer); a) Following approval for underground use, multi-axis anemometers should be used to monitor airflow direction and velocity between the mouth of the ventilation curtain or tubing and the face. Multi-axis instruments should also be used to monitor flow at locations outby the mining face. 12. During roof bolting, if it is not practical to monitor methane levels at the mining face, methane levels should be measured with a bolter machine-mounted monitor and a detector held 16 ft inby the last row of bolts using a extensible pole." - NIOSHTIC-2

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