Cambria 33 Abandoned Coal Mine Methane Capture Project

Project TypeAbandoned Coal Mine Methane Capture

What They DoAs a part of the geologic process which transforms plant material into coal, coal bed methane is formed and trapped in coal seams. This project captures methane gas and injects it into to a nearby natural gas pipeline, for use by local residents and businesses.

  • WHERE THEY AREEbensburg, PA
Blue factory pipes

About the Project

The Cambria 33 mine opened in 1968, and is made up of five seams. In the late 1980s, it was the largest operating mine in Cambria County, but was subsequently abandoned in 1994. The mine was not sealed, so until the installation of the project, methane was allowed to seep into the atmosphere from the abandoned mine unabated for nearly fifteen years.

In the mid 2000s, Vessels Coal Gas acquired the rights to Cambria 33s abandoned B seam. Vessels Coal Gas is a Colorado-based company, founded by technical mine experts expressly for the purpose of developing coal mine methane capture projects at working and abandoned coal mines in the United States. At that time, Vessels also leased a portion of the farmland overlying Cambria 33 from the Pileski family, who uses the land to grow and harvest hay and corn.

Over the summer and fall of 2006, Vessels monitored the existing air shaft and wells from the old mine to confirm that the mine was a net source of methane emissions to the atmosphere. In preparation for the project, two new wells were drilled to serve as the collection point for methane from the mine. The project came online in March 2008, when the gas upgrading system, described below, began operating.

The project wells are connected to a gas blower which vacuums methane from the mine and delivers the gas to a pressure swing adsorption unit. The unit compresses the gas, pushing it through several molecular sieves to remove impurities. The purified gas is then injected into a nearby Peoples Natural Gas utility pipeline, for delivery to their customers. In order to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with the project, an electricity generator was installed in December 2010. This generator is fueled by gas captured from the mine and serves to power the projects gas upgrading and injection equipment, which had previously relied on grid power. The grid power in the area is generated primarily from coal-fired power plants.

In the Community

The project helps control the negative environmental effects of an abandoned coal mine by reducing local air pollution from passive methane emissions. Methane is 84 times more powerful than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas, and this project ensures the collected methane is destroyed via combustion in the electricity generator and by Peoples Natural Gas customer use. In a region heavily dependent on coal for electricity, the project helps reduce emissions related to electricity generation and provides a source of natural gas for local residences and businesses that would otherwise have gone to waste.

The project has created one local plant manager job and provides a farmable land for the Pileski family farm that leases the land over the mine and on which the project is located.