The West Cliff Ventilation Air Methane Project was announced in 2004 and is a joint project between the mining giant, the Australian Greenhouse Office and Swedish emission control specialists MEGTEC System AB.
It was presented with a highly commended award last night at the New South Wales Minerals Council’s Environmental Excellence Awards for its environmental innovation.
The $30 million project converts low methane concentrations in mine ventilation air to energy and will reduce greenhouse gas emissions at the West Cliff site by 200,000 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year.
A BHP Billiton Illawarra Coal spokesperson said the project, which is being operated by Energy Developments, is in its final stages of commissioning after about 10 years of planning and construction.
Once in operation the project will use Vocsidizer technology to convert low concentration methane gas – typically less than 1.25% of air volume – to carbon dioxide and water vapour through an oxidation, or flameless combustion, process.
Heat exchangers then capture the high levels of thermal energy released and use it to produce steam that is then used to drive a steam turbine and create electricity.
The spokesperson said the WestVAMP plant’s annual carbon emission reductions would be the equivalent of taking 45,000 cars off the road or producing enough electricity to power 20,000 homes.
WestVAMP is the company’s next stage in gas emissions generation and will boost energy levels being produced by methane drainage power plants in operation at the Appin and Appin West – formerly Tower – sites.
These plants produce 94MW of energy, about 50% more than is required to power the sites with the excess electricity sold to the state grid.
The spokesperson said the company had no expansion or development plans for the existing or WestVAMP plants and said the Environmental Excellence Award confirms the company’s commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.