EUABOUT ATTENDS… “Workshop on a regulatory approach on measurement and mitigation of methane emissions in the coal sector” by European Commission

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The DG Energy of the EU Commission held a workshop on the measurement and mitigation of methane emissions in the coal sector on March 15. 

The event hosted representatives from stakeholder companies and organizations who addressed the issues around the reduction and management of this particular greenhouse gas at the European level. The presentation was introduced by Malcolm McDowell, team leader in DG Energy, and aimed at achieving inputs for the preparation of the upcoming Commission proposal on EU legislation to measure and mitigate emissions in the energy sector by providing an opportunity to share knowledge on the topic.

Participants to the discussion included Meredydd Evans from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory which presented the analysis in support of the Global Methane Initiative concerning the recourse to Abandoned Mines Methane (AMM) as a clean source of energy. As a matter of fact, abandoned mines continue to emit methane for many years after closure, which can still be captured and utilized. In this regard, defining a proper regulatory framework and ownership rights might facilitate meeting AMM policy objectives.

Reporting activities regarding emissions and thresholds play a fundamental role in shaping legislation and policy-making. As Clark Talkington from Advanced Resource International pointed out, the US Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program serves the scope of setting the rules for better understanding relative emissions of specific industries as well as factors that influence GHG emissions rate and actions which could lead to their reduction.

In this regard, Ember Coal Mine Methane analyst MaƂgorzata Kasprzak tackled the issues that are crucial for coal mines emissions reporting and impact in the case of EU and specifically Poland. The study which was carried out highlighted the differences in the levels of plant leaks among countries producing coal and showed Poland as the third country whose methane leaks impact the most on climate in addition to burning coal (following Kazakhstan and Russia). The approach of the EU in terms of regulation should therefore be directed to the ban on venting and flaring from demethanisation stations as well as to the introduction of standardized methods of emissions measurement and reporting from publicly available data and independently verified.

The analysis proposed by representatives of Arnsberg District Government Martin Wissen and Ernst-Günter Weiß gave an overview of North Rhine-Westphalia region, which for centuries has been shaped by intensive mining activities. The active hard coal extraction in the area ended in 2008, leaving abandoned coal mines to be flooded in parts but also affecting the surface through methane emissions due to the coal mining. The region adopted monitoring programs to assess gas release and discharge and to avoid potential risks from gas leaks. Both Wissen and Weiß explained the opportunity of the utilization of methane from abandoned mines as a means to reduce the amount of CO2. In fact, if gas production is completely eliminated, around 1.6 billion m³ of methane will be released into the atmosphere by 2035.

Another crucial aspect which was addressed during the event regarded the financial aspects connected to the mitigation of emissions impact. According to EURACOAL Engineer Jacek Skiba, results could be obtained through the use of ventilation air methane (VAM) which, if enriched with Coal Mine Methane (CMM), could represent the most economic solution to capture and abate emissions. Such projects however would be financially viable only by introducing incentives schemes, rather than passing legislation that includes penalties for emitting methane. Eng. Skiba therefore called for a holistic approach in identifying and facing all the barriers.

The workshop concluded with an open debate based on the public consultation which emphasized the importance to consult stakeholders in order to hear their views and provide best examples for an effective regulatory approach within the EU.

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