Coal mine methane in a world first

The Premier of New South Wales, Australia, Morris Iemma MP, today officially opened BHP Billiton’s West Cliff Ventilation Air Methane Project (WestVAMP) – a world-first greenhouse gas reduction initiative. Situated at BHP Billiton Illawarra Coal’s West Cliff coal mine, the project is the first demonstration of commercial power generation solely from mine ventilation air. It follows seven years of collaboration with technology provider MEGTEC Systems, owned by US Company Sequa Corp.

The A$30 million plant will generate approximately 5 MW of electricity and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 250,000 t of carbon dioxide equivalent each year.

With the assistance of a A$6 million contribution from the Australian Greenhouse Office Greenhouse Gas Abatement Programme, the project has involved construction of a facility to generate power from mine ventilation air which contains very low concentrations of methane. It is another example of BHP Billiton’s commitment to using waste methane gas for power generation. For more than 10 years, the company has used methane extracted during the mining process to generate electricity.

Premier Iemma congratulated BHP Billiton on its commitment to greenhouse gas abatement. “This facility will make a significant contribution to greenhouse gas reduction in New South Wales, and I applaud the ingenuity of BHP Billiton and its technology providers MEGTEC Systems AB,” he said.

BHP Billiton Illawarra Coal President, Colin Bloomfield, said the project was a fine example of BHP Billiton’s Climate Change Policy in action. “The policy is about delivering real reductions in the greenhouse gas intensity of our production processes and WestVAMP is making a significant contribution to reducing BHP Billiton’s carbon footprint,” Mr Bloomfield said. “The NSW Government’s forward thinking Greenhouse Gas Abatement Scheme has provided the fiscal conditions to make this innovative investment possible.”