What is Coalbed Methane?
Coalbed methane is the same natural gas that is found in UK offshore gas fields and is piped to households but it is stored within the coals where it was formed. Coalbed methane now provides 10% of all domestic gas in the US and, as an industry, has grown rapidly as other sources have depleted. The same opportunity is being tested now in the UK in response to concerns about rapidly declining UK offshore gas reserves.
How Does it Work?
The aim of the project is to recover the natural gas found within deeper coal deposits that have not been disturbed by mining. It involves drilling slim 'horizontal' holes along the coal seams and reducing the pressure within the coals by pumping water. This releases the gas which rises through the borehole to the surface where it can be collected and delivered to the gas network or local users. Advances in oil and gas industry technology in the UK and overseas over the last 10 years mean that this clean fuel source can be produced with minimal impact on the local community and environment.
The Composite team has brought together tried-and-tested technology from the oil and gas industry in Aberdeen, the US and Australia. The initial test-drilling is being carried out by new rigs, purchased by Composite Energy, to ensure quiet, quick, safe and clean drilling of the wells. Each drilling location requires a small site which is occupied for operations for only short periods of time. The initial test work will involve site preparation, drilling of the wells, and initiation of water and gas flows. All sites, when no longer required or effective for gas production, will be fully restored and returned to their original purpose.
What Happens Next?
In the event of successful results from the initial wells, a second phase of development activity – covered by additional consents and approvals - will be undertaken to produce natural gas over a period likely to extend over many years. This second stage would involve the drilling of additional wells and the installation of gas-handling equipment and underground pipelines connecting the wells to the local and national gas network.
Who Regulates Your Operations?
The activities of Composite Energy are regulated by the DTI, Local Authorities, Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), the Coal Authority and the Health and Safety Executive. The initial phase of work, which started at the end of October 2004, is covered by a DTI exploration licence (PEDL 133).