By Dennis Lathem
Executive Director, Coalbed Methane Association of Alabama
Yes, gas IS good. We realize this each time we fill up our tanks and have money left to spend on life’s other essentials—and wants. But, that kind of gas is not the kind to which I’m referring. Specifically, I’m talking about coalbed methane gas.
Never heard of coalbed methane gas? Well, I am here to share with you exactly what it is and why it’s important to us as Alabamians.
Methane is the by-product of the geological process that turns organic material into coal. Coalbed methane was proven to be a valuable additional source of natural gas when techniques, pioneered right here in Alabama, were developed to make underground coal mining safer.
These days most natural gas from coal (coalbed methane) is extracted from deposits that will never be mined. This natural gas, which is transported in the same pipeline system as other natural gas, is used by utilities to generate electricity, by industry to power factories, by chemical plants to make products vital to our economy and to provide heating and hot water to millions of American homes.
Coalbed methane gas is produced in seven counties and accounts for approximately 43% of all natural gas produced in our state. Currently, there are 5,400 active (producing) wells out of 10,000 that have been permitted in the last 37 years. Operators have invested $3.5 billion to drill the wells, develop production infrastructure and bring this fuel to market. It’s one of 16 sources that comprises our energy mix.
Natural gas is clean and affordable. It has fewer impurities than most other types of fuels, which result in less pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Due to methane gas’ naturally clean state, it means that companies don’t have to purchase extra environmental controls, like scrubbers or filters. This translates to fewer expenses for the utility, which means lower bills for you and me.
In addition to being a clean power source, methane gas has even more uses. It can be mixed with fertilizer to make ethanol, while it also eliminates soot for cleaner diesel fuel. As a raw material, it is used in lightweight cars, wind power blades, solar panels and other energy-efficient materials.
Coalbed methane gas is a clean, natural fit for our state’s energy resources. As a leader in low emission, methane gas is a resource we can be proud to use. It’s good for us and it’s easy on the environment. To learn more, visit us at http://coalbed.com/.