WVU researcher examines coal mine emissions - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

WVU researcher examines coal mine emissions

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CHLOE DAWSON / The State Journal CHLOE DAWSON / The State Journal

Coal-fired power plants are often blamed for most of the carbon dioxide emissions being released in to the atmosphere. But what about the actual coal mines?

According to a West Virginia University study, the collective amount of carbon dioxide being released from 140 coal mines across Pennsylvania is equal to that of a small power plant, the university’s Eberly College of Arts and Sciences said in a June 15 news release. 

WVU Department of Geology and Geography Assistant Professor Dorothy Vesper, along with her research team, are using measurements from several sites and estimated values from U.S. Geological Survey data, as well as a meter designed for measuring carbon dioxide in beverages to more accurately measure the gas in mine drainage water, the release stated. 

Mine drainage, a byproduct of areas active in ore or coal mining, has long been associated with contaminated drinking water, disrupted growth and reproduction of certain types of plants and animals and infrastructure corrosion, the release continued. Sulfate-rich mine water can dissolve the surrounding limestone, allowing carbon dioxide gas to be present in the water. So, when mine waters discharge at the land surface, some of the carbon dioxide releases into the atmosphere.

“The gas is really high in mine waters and people who work with mine waters know that, but no one has quantified it in detail,” Vesper said. “No one has really developed an accurate way to measure the carbon dioxide coming out, partially because it is very difficult.”

Vesper and her team measured carbon dioxide levels in the water at two mine portals and compared those data to estimated gas levels for a limited set of inactive mines across Pennsylvania. 

These findings, she said, have opened the door to larger studies determining the impact carbon dioxide evasion from mine drainage has on the environment.

“I think right now, the next thing I want to do is get a better handle on this and get a much more quantitative assessment at more sites,” Vesper said. 

The work was initiated with Harry Edenborn as part of the National Energy Technology Laboratory’s Regional University Alliance, a collaborative initiative of the organization. Ongoing work is funded by the National Science Foundation’s Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research-funded Appalachian Freshwater Initiative at WVU.

This story first appeared in the print edition of The State Journal. Click HERE to subscribe.

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