Oxbow's West Elk Coal Mine at Somerset is now producing up to one megawatt of clean electricity fed directly into the DMEA grid using waste methane from the mine as fuel for the 1,500 hp engine that turns the electric generator.
The only installation of its kind in an active coal mine west of the Mississippi River was opened for display last week to dozens of invited guests and dignitaries. The project is a partnership of Oxbow and Vessels Coal Gas which operates a similar coal mine methane-fueled generator in Pennsylvania.
The one-megawatt generator at West Elk will soon be joined by two more of the units to produce up to three megawatts of electricity. "Annual (electric) output is expected to exceed 24 million kilowatt-hours of electricity, enough to meet the needs of 2,000 average American homes," according to information provided about the project.
Coal mine methane that fuels the electric generation normally goes unused. It has to be vented to the atmosphere to protect miners underground. The West Elk project will put the unused energy in that "waste methane" to work providing enough electricity to run a full year of operations for the Aspen Skiing Company — four ski mountains, three hotels, and 17 restaurants, according to information provided.
The for-profit generating enterprise involves cooperation among Oxbow, Vessels Coal Gas, Gunnison Energy Corporation, Holy Cross Energy and Aspen Skiing Company.
The project has been under conceptual design and development for at least five to seven years, speakers at the event noted. It was delayed while a buyer for the electricity was sought. Holy Cross Energy eventually stepped up to purchase the power, which is not benefitting from renewable energy credits that can be granted by the Legislature.
The project could also produce big economic benefits reaching $2 million in taxes, royalties and payroll annually, project partners say.
The West Elk project is the "greenest of the green" in terms of environmental benefit, too. The $6 million facility "may provide as much theoretical climate protection as would the installation of $400 million of solar photovoltaics," say the partners.blog comments powered by Disqus