China puts gas issues under the spotlight

IN an effort to deal with coal bed methane hazards at the country’s notoriously gassy coal mines, China has extended its safety campaign, providing more opportunities for coal exporters and equipment makers.

Donna Schmidt

The National Development and Reform Commission told Reuters two fatal gas explosions this year – one in February at Shanxi's Tunlan mine and one in May at Chongqing's Tonghua operation – have brought management loopholes and gas treatment insufficiencies to light at China’s medium and large mines.

In April, Beijing announced it would start a gas safety campaign for operations producing 300,000 tons annually, with its higher-capacity mines to go under the microscope.

Additionally, any small mines that fail to meet the country’s safety standards by September 2010 will be ordered closed, the news service said.

The NDRC said the campaign was designed to prevent high-fatality explosions while encouraging an increase in the extraction and use of coal bed methane – a largely-untapped byproduct in China.

"By end of 2010, 18 mining areas with annual gas extraction of over 100 million cubic metres should be established," the NDRC said, according to Reuters.

While China holds 36 trillion cubic metres of gas reserves, making it the third-largest producer after Russia and Canada, it pumped 5.8 billion cubic metres from underground and used just 1.8Bcm.

China’s clampdown on safety this year has been a boon to Australian metallurgical coal exporters.

Industrea managing director and chief executive officer Robin Levison has previously told ILN the sales of the company’s methane gas drainage system had been increasing in line with moves to improve safety in the Chinese industry.

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