16 July 1999

New equipment helps unlock $30 billion methane gas industry for Queensland

New experimental equipment at the University of Queensland could help miners unlock methane gas resources worth $30 billion.

The world's largest coal permeability stress rig, capable of applying pressure in three directions to samples, has been installed at the Chemical Engineering Department's new Research Facility on True-Triaxial Coal Permeability.

Chemical Engineering Department head Associate Professor Victor Rudolph said the rig added to Queensland's reputation as a world leader in coal-mining technology

"This leading edge facility will provide information on extracting energy from coal in the form of relatively clean-burning methane gas," he said.

Dr Rudolph said the $500,000 permeability rig allowed researchers to experiment with extracting methane gas from coal as well as pumping carbon dioxide back into the material.

"The research results produced will help mining companies exploit coal-seam methane as a new energy source. Queensland's vast methane resources have been estimated at 5000 billion cubic metres. By facilitating even a small 10 percent recovery of this resource, our research would lead to $30 billion of clean-burning methane gas for many Queensland industries including petrochemical, fertilisers, mining, power generation and transportation fuel," Dr Rudolph said.

"The rig will also help companies running coal-burning power stations with decisions on managing carbon dioxide emissions. Research suggests these can be pumped back into coal seams and stored indefinitely rather than released into the atmosphere.

"Within the mining industry, the rig can be used to research the processes and risks associated with underground explosions of methane during coal mining. Finally, it will increase research into the storage capability of underground seams. Pipeline methane gas can be stored for part of the day until it is needed at peak energy times."

The facility will be opened by the acting executive director of the Queensland Mines and Energy Department's Energy Division, Dr Bryan Coulter, on Friday, July 16, at 9.30am.

The opening will be attended by the University's Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Paul Greenfield, the Executive Dean for the Faculty of Engineering, Physical Sciences and Architecture Professor Andrew Lister, and representatives from a variety of local and international companies. It will be held in the Chemical Engineering Seminar Room (Room 206), College Road, St Lucia Campus.

For more information, contact Professor Victor Rudolph (telephone 07 3365 3616).