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State eyes methane as a renewable energy

May 21st, 2012

Filed under In The News

State eyes methane as a renewable energy Print E-mail
Written by Kathy Browning
Wednesday, 22 February 2012 00:00
Tony Prendergast, DMEA board director, testified at a State House committee hearing on Feb. 13 regarding a bill to include coal mine methane as an eligible resource under the Renewable Portfolio Standards.

“I want to point out that [DMEA] understands that it’s technically not a renewable resource but we feel it fits the eligibility criteria,” Prendergast said on Feb. 20. “If it is included in that renewable energy standard as a qualifying eligible resource it would improve the marketability of that resource.

That resource being utilized by being more marketable would be good for local economic development, good for the mines and provide another locally-generated energy resource which is something DMEA is very interested in.” He added, “We have one mine, Oxbow, that believes this can be a valuable resource.”

The bill was passed by the House committee, allowing the mines to capture methane gas which otherwise is vented into the atmosphere. The methane would be eligible under Colorado’s renewable energy standard to be used as an energy source. The bi-partisan bill was introduced by Sen. Gail Schwartz and Rep. Randy Baumgardner.

One company working for the bill’s passage in the state legislature is North Fork Energy, which was formed by Oxbow Mining, LLC, Gunnison Energy Corporation and Vessels Coal Gas, Inc. The company is working to capture methane from Elk Creek Mine in Somerset. According to the company website, North Fork Energy “is actively marketing electricity and Verified Carbon Emissions. North Fork’s current estimated potential is up to 40 Mega Watts of electricity and 3,000 carbon offsets per day.” North Fork’s first electricity customer is Holy Cross Energy with service expected to begin mid-2012.

North Fork Energy manager Tom Vessels is chairman of the Colorado Government Minerals Energy and Geology Policy Advisory Board. Vessels recently formed the Coal Mine Methane Coalition to promote the kind of legislation which is now before the House. The company works on capturing methane from mines in the Rocky Mountain and the Appalachian coal basins.

Vessels has had a methane recovery project at a large abandoned underground coal mine in Cambria County, Pa., since May 2008. “The plant has since sold more than 407.7 million cubic feet of pipeline quality natural gas to Peoples Natural Gas, a Pittsburgh based natural gas utility. Through this process the project has produced over 120,000 tons of Certified Emission Reductions (CERs) by reducing the same volume of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, from being released to the atmosphere. As an extension to this project Vessels has recently installed an electrical generation unit capable of producing 750 kilowatts per hour of electricity. This phase of the project will further increase the volume of CERs from the project,” their website states.