World’s first International Centre of Excellence on Coal Mine Methane Gas opens in Poland

The Worldwide Centre of Excellence on Coal Mine Methane in Poland was officially opened today, representing a great step as the first of its kind in the industry. The expert institution operating under the auspices of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe will contribute to the development of new methods of capturing and use of methane as a valuable energy source.

The newly commissioned Institution was founded by the Central Mining Institute in Katowice, the Polish Oil and Gas Company (PGNiG), the Polish Geological Institute and the Oil and Gas Institute. The Centre will operate under the auspices of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe. The agreement to establish the Centre was signed in Geneva in October 2015.

The Centre’s main objective is to expand on technologies for capturing and utilising coal mine methane. Novel solutions are sought to increase not only mining efficiency, but also safety of the miners. A further objective of the institution will be to reduce methane emissions and the carbon footprint of the coal mining sector.

I hope that the Centre will be actively disseminating best practices in terms of reducing methane emissions to the atmosphere and its economic use so as to be viable, justified and socially acceptable. I also hope that the information collected and experience gained within the Centre will directly translate into safety – commented Michał Kurtyka, Deputy Minister of Energy.

At the signing ceremony, the Director of the UNECE Sustainable Energy Division, Scott Foster, emphasised: UNECE and its Group of Experts on Coal Mine Methane (CMM) have worked over many years to develop best practice guidance for managing the accumulation of methane in operating coal mines. The United Nations has recognised the value of this work and has recommended wide dissemination and uptake of the best practices. The inauguration of this International Centre of Excellence is an important step in the dissemination, and UNECE applauds this initiative by the Government of Poland and the founding groups. We very much appreciate our ongoing collaboration with our Polish counterparts and look forward to supporting the activities of the Centre.

This Centre of Excellence is significant as it promises to be a repository and knowledgebase for applied sciences, engineering, and technology that comprises the best practices for managing methane extraction and use at coal mines. Training in best practices at this Centre will enable miners to reduce methane emissions, make underground coal mining safer, and establish sustainable production of coal and associated gas resources – stressed Raymond Pilcher, the Chair of the UNECE Group of Experts on CMM.

The International Centre will serve as a convenient platform for the exchange of experience among practitioners operating in the coal sector. It will also collect and compile data on methane management from around the world. Furthermore, following particular needs of the UNECE Member States, the Centre will also organise trainings and conduct investigations on various matters constituting the centre of its activities.

Founding organisations will share knowledge and expertise
The involvement of Central Mining Institute in the Centre is the recognition of the experience and qualifications of our faculty. The Centre should contribute to the active development of research on demethinating coal seams. – stresses Stanisław Prusek, Chief Executive Officer of the Central Mining Institute. The methane extraction in Polish mines is carried out mainly to ensure the safety of mining operations and the captured methane is released into the atmosphere to a large extent. Communities, academics, mining companies and decision-makers should be encouraged to raise awareness of the challenges and opportunities that are related to the use of methane contained in coal seams. The Centre is an opportunity for international cooperation in the area of methane and for transfer of Polish know-how to other mining world countries.

Polish Oil and Gas Company through its commitment to the Centre will gain access the latest data on the use of methane contained in coal seams. The company is currently testing the possibility of extracting methane from coal seams by fracking.

We are fully committed to development of new technologies for methane extraction. We want to share our experience in this area but also benefit from expertise of the Centre’s specialists. Our experts will join the ranks of its scientific base – said Łukasz Kroplewski, Vice-President of PGNiG Management Board, Development.

Exchange of experience among international experts
The opening of the International Centre of Excellence was accompanied by a scientific conference during which experts from all corners of the world presented best solutions for the utilisation and extraction of coal mine and coal bed methane. In this context, the prospects for development of the mining sector in Poland were also discussed. It was observed that more effective methane resourcefulness could provide the mining sector with additional revenue. Moreover, the participants agreed that better management of this valuable but dangerous and polluting resource, would translate directly into emissions reduction and greater working security in the mines.

Henry Sapiecha

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