Leane.Regan at csiro.au Leane.Regan at csiro.au
Thu Mar 27 11:36:06 EST 2003

27th March 2003 								Ref 03/57


A CSIRO scientist is on his way to the United States to help extinguish an underground coal fire burning for more than 10 weeks.

The coal seam fire has been burning 200m underground at the Loveridge Mine in West Virginia since January 7 and all attempts to extinguish it the have failed. 

CSIRO Exploration and Mining electronics engineering technician Stuart Addinell is part of a Queensland Mines Rescue Service team that left for West Virginia this (Thursday March 27) morning.

Mr Addinell, from the Queensland Centre for Advanced Technology in Brisbane, said Queensland was well placed to offer its know-how in this situation.

"The fire at Loveridge Mine is a textbook case for the technology's application," says Mr Addinell. "When coal is mined it releases methane, mining also exposes coal to oxygen, causing it to oxidise, this generates heat that can lead to
spontaneous combustion and that can lead to fires."

Queensland has very gassy coal mines, much like the Loveridge Mine.

"The Queensland Mines Rescue Service is co-ordinating the project and will use equipment based on a jet engine to inertise the air in the mine and extinguish the fire, which could take two to three weeks to extinguish," he says.

The GAG 3A jet inert gas generator works by pumping gas with very low concentrations of oxygen that won't sustain a fire into the mine. Steam is also pumped in. Over time this starves the fire of the oxygen it needs to burn and eventually
smothers it. Scientists can monitor the progress of the fire by analysing the amounts of various gases in the mine.

"CSIRO has been working on an upgraded control system for the GAG that will make it easier and much less labour-intensive to use," says Mr Addinell.

The work I've done already will make operating the equipment easier and I'm hoping to learn a lot more out of this that I can feed back into my own work which involves refining the control system."

CSIRO Exploration and Mining project leader Patrick Glynn said the GAG had been operating successfully in Queensland since 1998.

"In 2000 it was used to extinguish a fire in the Blair Athol mine in Queensland that had been burning since 1946," says Mr Glynn.

"These sorts of fires can burn for that long because once established, even if it uses up most of the available oxygen in the mine, the fire itself releases other gases like methane and eventually hydrogen that can make it almost
self-sustaining," Mr Glynn said.

More information: 
Patrick Glynn, CSIRO 	  +61 7 3327 4444, patrick.glynn at csiro.au
Robert Hoge	              +61 7 3327 4486 , 0438 120 401

Science Journalist
CSIRO Media Unit
Limestone Avenue
Canberra, ACT
Phone: 02 6276 6513
Fax:     02 6276 6821
Mobile: 0419 236 519

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