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Tube bundle system studies at Signal Peak Energy Bull Mountains #1 Mine

Transactions of the Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration , 2013, Vol. 334, No. 1, pp. 489-497

Zipf, R.K.; Ochsner, R.; Krog, R.; Marchewka, W.; Valente, M.; Jensen, R.


A tube bundle system (TBS) is a mechanical system for continuously drawing gas samples through tubes from multiple monitoring points located in an underground coal mine for analysis and display on the surface. The U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), in collaboration with Signal Peak Energy (SPE), LLC, Bull Mountains No. 1 Mine, operated a TBS during mining of two bleederless, longwall panels. This paper describes the gas analysis data and its interpretation. As verified by the TBS, coal at the SPE mine tends to oxidize slowly. It was known that a reservoir of low-oxygen concentration atmosphere developed about 610 m (2,000 ft) behind the longwall face. A bleederless ventilation system facilitates formation of an inert atmosphere in this longwall gob and decreases the likelihood of spontaneous combustion. Connections of the mine atmosphere to the surface through subsidence cracks could allow airflow into the longwall gob, revive coal oxidation and increase spontaneous combustion risk. The atmospheric composition of the sealed areas was homogeneous, except in the immediate vicinity of suspected ingassing points. The TBS verified that gases within the partially sealed, bleederless longwall gob expanded into the longwall tailgate area when barometric pressure decreased. The concentration of carbon dioxide in the back return airflow at the longwall tailgate was observed to increase by a factor of three and possibly up to 10 times the typical background concentration of 0.5 to 1.0%, depending on the size of the longwall gob and the magnitude of barometric pressure decrease. TBS have the inherent disadvantage of slow response time due to travel time of the gas samples and sequential gas analyses. A TBS or similar continuous monitoring system could be beneficial in detecting and providing warning of potentially hazardous gas concentrations, if the slow response time of the system is always understood.