Monday, May 12, 2014

News: Pit's future as Maltby Energy Park

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Maltby Colliery, which closed in March 2013 after more than 100 years of underground operations, is set to become The Maltby Energy Park, "a compact "green" alternative energy facility with minimal impact on the surrounding environment."

Alkane Energy plc, one of the UK's fastest growing independent power generators, paid £7.5m to buy coal mine methane (CMM) assets at Maltby from operators Hargreaves Services last year. Alkane is set to make a further payment of £2m to acquire additional site infrastructure assets six months after the mine shafts are satisfactorily sealed as part of the planned closure of Maltby Colliery. With demolition underway, this is expected to occur by October 2014.

Maltby has reserves of an estimated 328 million cubic metres of coal mine methane, which Alkane is already extracting and using to generate electricity. Methane extracted from the mine for safety reasons has, for some years, been used to generate electricity on the site for exportation to the gird. Plans have now been submitted to retain some of the existing plant and equipment to extract methane from a pipeline which has been left in the last colliery shaft that has not yet been capped.

A decision was made to mothball the mine following no viable alternative solution being found to geological reports that indicated that the risks associated with mining a new panel, called T125, had not significantly reduced and that the panel is not viable on health and safety, geological, and financial grounds.

The Maltby site occupies 500 acres and employed over 500 staff and contractors. The new operation will be totally different, designed to operate automatically without the need for people to be on site, except for maintenance or repair. The equipment will be managed remotely at Alkane's Markham Vale Depot and Control Centre.

If the plans are approved, the generation of electricity would be carried out 24 hours per day, seven days per week for an estimated period of up to 15 years. It is envisaged that once mine gas extraction ceases, the site will be restored to amenity or some other use. The council and Hargreaves have been in discussions regarding how the site fits into the council's Local Plan which sets out policies and proposals for new housing, shopping and employment.

Regent Park Energy Limited, previously called Green Park Energy before it was acquired by Alkane in 2012, also operates the Manvers CMM fuelled generation facility near Swinton.

Alkane has more than 800 sq km of acreage under various onshore Petroleum Exploration and Development Licences (PEDLs). Alkane retains a 100% interest in the majority of these PEDLs, which extend to all of the hydrocarbons recoverable from these licence areas. This includes any CMM, natural gas, coal bed methane (CBM) or shale gas. Alkane has the licence for PEDL 43, which covers the Maltby site, but is yet to come forward with plans to extract shale gas by the controversial method of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and continues to focus on the coal mine methane.

The extraction of coal mine methane does not involve any form of fracking or any other processes of well stimulation associated with coal bed methane (CBM) or shale gas extraction. The methane is produced by coal left underground, following conventional mining operations carried out over the years the mine was in operation.

The plans state: "It is estimated that over the anticipated 15 year life of the project, some 115 million cubic metres of pure methane will be extracted from the mine void and the coal left underground.

"Full production, of up to 10 MW (Mega Watts) of electricity, from the eight generator engines currently on the site is expected to continue until at least May/June 2015. In the remaining life of the project, there is expected to be a slow progressive reduction in CMM extraction, as the methane, within the coal left underground, depletes.

"After about 15 years all the gas that can be recovered economically should have been extracted. However, it is not possible to be precise, so the above figures are given as a guide only.

"If all goes according to plan, there should be enough gas to generate in the region of 445,000 Mega Watt Hours (MWh), of electricity, over the life of the project."

Alkane website

Images: Alkane / Baker Barnett

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