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Methane Control In Highwall Mining; Handbook For Methane Control In Mining
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    In This Chapter [How inert gas works to prevent methane explosions How inert gas is generated and delivered at highwall mines Volume and quality requirements for inert gas at highwall mines How an inert gas system is operated and Precautions to take during mining to prevent methane explosions] This chapter discusses a method, originally developed by Volkwein and Ulery [1993], to prevent methane explosions during highwall mining. In highwall mining, a horizontal auger or a mining machine enters the coal seam from a surface mine pit at the bottom of a highwall, and the coal is mined out from a series of parallel holes. Explosions can be prevented by injecting inert gas into each hole as it is mined. Coal near the surface has lost most of its methane gas over time. However, in recent years, surface mining has been used for deeper reserves of coal. This trend toward mining deeper reserves has increased the chance of encountering methane, and methane explosions at highwall mining operations have resulted in injuries. HOW INERT GAS WORKS TO PREVENT METHANE EXPLOSIONS A methane explosion requires the presence of sufficient amounts of both methane and oxygen, as well as an ignition source. If the methane cannot be reduced and the ignition source cannot be eliminated, then explosions may be prevented by adding an inert gas, which contains little to no oxygen, to the mixture [FWQA 1970]. Just how much inert gas must be added depends on the mining rate, as well as the composition of the inert gas. An explosibility diagram can be used to show whether a methane mixture is explosive after inert gas is added [Zabetakis et al. 1959] (Figure 10-1). This diagram indicates that gas mixtures fall into one of three range categories explosive, explosive when mixed with air, and nonexplosive depending on the percentage of methane and percentage of effective inert. Effective inert is calculated from the percentage of excess nitrogen 3 and percentage of carbon dioxide in the mixture.

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