Alkane is restoring life to region’s coal mines

Maltby CollieryMaltby Colliery
Maltby Colliery
THREE of Yorkshire’s redundant coal mines are being brought back to life under plans by miner​ Alkane Energy to harness their methane gas.

Following initial teething problems at Rotherham’s Maltby colliery, Alkane said the site is now producing record levels of methane gas.

The Prince of Wales colliery in Wakefield started full methane production in January and Alkane said production is going according to plan.

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It also has high hopes for Markham Main at Doncaster, where it is currently drilling to test for methane levels.

Yorkshire’s coalfields tend to generate more methane than other areas of the country, making its former mines a rich source of future power production.

Alkane said that methane from the former coal mines will be harnessed to help meet the UK power shortfall which could result in power cuts as early as next winter.

In June, Ofgem said that without action the risk of power cuts could be as high as one chance in four by the winter of 2015/16.

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At a time when unrest in the Ukraine, Russia and the Middle East threatens to destabilise UK power supplies, Alkane said it is able and ready to help meet the shortfall.

Alkane’s CEO Neil O’Brien said the group will hear next week whether its bid to supply 60MW of standby power for this winter has been successful.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change, alongside Ofgem and the National Grid, are introducing capacity initiatives to ensure the UK has 400MW of reserve power this winter.

At Maltby, the closure of the colliery took longer than planned, which Alkane said was not within its control. The initial plan was that the shaft sealing operations would take five weeks, but in the event they took 13 weeks.

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“We are pleased to report that Maltby returned to full production in June,” said Mr O’Brien. “We have seen a number of record production figures for total group coal mine methane production since this date. In particular, current output from Maltby is ahead of expectations and we expect production in the second half to compensate for the delayed shaft sealing operations.

“We should be back on track by Christmas. We’ve not lost the gas, it’s still there.”

With all eight engines running Maltby can produce 10MW.

“We always knew Maltby had some of the highest concentrations of gas to coal, but we couldn’t get at it while the miners were still there,” said Mr O’Brien.

“Maltby will be a very good site over the years. The 15-year lease runs for another 14 years and could well be chugging along after that.”

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The group is working on the drilling of new sites and it expects to know the outcome of tests at Markham Main by the autumn.

“We’re hopeful,” said Mr O’Brien. “It could be a 4MW site.”

The Prince of Wales colliery, which is in a corner of the reclamation scheme, opened last Christmas and Mr O’Brien said the 2MW facility is “going well”.

It also has plans to extract methane from a fourth former Yorkshire coal mine, Newmarket in South Leeds.

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Overall, Alkane’s installed capacity reached 140MW in the six months to June 30, up from 81MW in the first half of 2013.

In the first half of the year, its sites delivered 85GWh, down from 94GWh in the first half of 2013.

“This was a satisfactory performance given that production was disrupted at Maltby as the mine closure operation took place,” said Mr O’Brien.