Methane-air explosion hazard within coal mine gobs
Transactions of the Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration
, 2013, Vol. 334, No. 1, pp. 376-390
This paper analyzes the explosion hazard resulting from the formation of methane-air mixtures in the mined-out gobs of underground longwall coal mines. Although direct examinations of the gob atmosphere are difficult due to the inaccessibility of these gobs, evidence from methane drainage practices and investigations of numerous mine explosions suggests that explosive methane zones can form within longwall gobs. Explosions and fires resulting from these methane accumulations have led to severe and fatal injuries to the miners. Most recently, this was demonstrated in the explosion of the Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia, where 29 miners lost their lives.The paper also reviews current research on numerical modeling of gas flows in longwall gobs and outlines how targeted injection of nitrogen into gobs can effectively reduce the volume of such explosive methane zones. The paper concludes that comprehensive monitoring of gas compositions along the accessible fringes of the gobs along with inertization, improved ventilation schemes and further research are necessary to control this explosion hazard and make mining operations safe.