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Multiple Mineral Development Conflicts in Coalbed Methane Operations

Phillip Wm. Lear, Coalbed Gas Development (1992)

Current estimates give the co-terminous United States between 700 and 850 trillion cubic feet of coalbed methane reserves.3 This exceeds the known reserves of natural gas. Historically, methane in coal seams represented a hazard to coal miners. Operators ventilated it to the atmosphere to render coal mines safe for operations. Today, however, coalbed methane is seen as an important alternative source of pipeline quality natural gas.

Coalbed methane occurs, as its name implies, in coal seams. Important, albeit not always fully appreciated, is the fact that coal seams appear in Pennsylvanian and Cretaceous age formations in the same lands as known and developing oil and gas fields. On the western scene, coal seams are also found in the same lands as other bedded energy minerals such as oil shale, native asphalt, and other oil impregnated rock. The coexistence of methane in the coal seams, coupled with the stratigraphic presence of other energy [4A-2] minerals in the same lands as coalbed methane give rise to operational conflicts to extract the diverse minerals.

Western coalbed methane reserves are found in Cretaceous to early Tertiary coals seam, in contrast to the East where they are found in Pennsylvanian age rocks. Western coal seams are deep compared to the shallower beds of the East, and may be located as deep as 10,000 feet and are typically underpressur