Coal and coalbed methane are important components in the United States’ energy mix. The following are two examples of WRI’s efforts to reduce the effects of these types of fossil fuel production.
Acid Mine Drainage (AMD)
Acid mine drainage represents an environmental legacy from the mining of coal. Acid mine drainage occurs when the oxidation of metal sulfides (e.g., pyrite) forms acidic conditions. Techniques to manage AMD have ranged from treatment of the AMD effluent to passive treatment processes. WRI’s patent-pending Biological Source Treatment (BST) was developed through small-scale field tests supported by the U.S. Department of Energy and Rio Tinto Energy America. BST promotes a microbial dominant biofilm that shields AMD source materials from oxidation, therefore preventing the further generation of acidity. A package technique that includes a substrate and microbial inoculum mix is available.
Produced Waters (Coalbed Methane and Oil and Gas)
Coalbed methane involves the production of methane gas associated with coal seams. Environmental concerns associated with CBM development in the Powder River Basin and elsewhere include dust (particulate), noise, NOx and ozone emissions, and management of the produced water. Great quantities of water are produced during gas extraction, and much of it contains high SAR (salt) and metals content that prohibit its direct use for livestock, domestic drinking water (re-injection into aquifer), or land application (irrigation).
WRI has been a leader in CBM produced water management R&D and led the Western Resources Project, an industry-sponsored program that focused on the impact of CBM produced waters in holding ponds and for irrigation. WRI continues to provide solutions and services to the CBM industry.