-->
Home Store Project Ideas Project Guide Ask An Expert Blog Careers Teachers Parents Students

Methane: Handle with Care

| 1 Comment

An explosion yesterday in the Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia is responsible for at least 25 deaths. Another four miners are still missing, but rescue missions have reportedly been called off due to dangerous levels of methane gas. Once the underground tunnels are ventilated, a process being assisted through the drilling of holes in the side of the mine to allow more oxygen to enter, rescue and recovery operations can continue.

The New York Times reported that officials hold out hope that the four missing miners may have reached a nearby safe house within the network of mines, a space where they could potentially survive for up to four days.

The cause of the explosion is as yet undetermined, but there is speculation that methane gas built up in a section of the mine that had been sealed off.


Methane: Good and Bad

A natural gas that appears both in nature and can be created through processes like composting, methane is used to provide heat and electricity. It also can be used to power some cars. However, as a "greenhouse gas," methane emissions may contribute to the problem of global warming and climate change.

On a smaller scale, an immediate danger is that in concentration, methane is flammable and explosive. While methane is non-toxic, it can be dangerous in an area without adequate ventilation because it can displace oxygen, causing asphyxiation. In other words, methane can take over the space it is in, diluting or pushing aside the available oxygen we need to breathe.


The Coal Connection

Coal mining produces methane, and so methane exists naturally within underground tunnels where mining occurs. Burning coal also emits methane gasses.


Biogas and Biomass

The following Science Buddies project ideas explore issues related to composting and biomass and touch upon issues related to methane production, harnessing, and ventilation. There is a reason that a landfill can't simply be turned into a compost pile, and it's directly related to the risks of methane.

To understand better what may have happened in the mine in West Virginia and to explore the ways in which methane comes up in current alternative and sustainable energy research, check out these project ideas:


For information on the mining disaster:

The New York Times: Rescue Suspended at Mine as Death Toll Reaches 25

The New York Times: Toll Mounts in West Virginia Coal Mine Explosion

1 Comment

i love this kinh of stuff i love doing projets!!!!!

Science Buddies Science Activities

Science Buddies and Autodesk for Student STEM Exploration


thumbnail
Think baseball is all about runs, outs, balls, and strikes? What about physics, biomechanics, and statistics? Explore the science of baseball!

thumbnail
We go DIY with molecular gastronomy and family science as we make our own popping boba using the Spherification Kit from the Science Buddies Store.

thumbnail
The current Ebola crisis in West Africa has already topped charts for all Ebola outbreaks in history. Medical biotechnology science projects let students gets hands-on with projects that parallel real-world research and development.

thumbnail
An unusual caterpillar brings lots of "eeeews!" and one contribution to a citizen science project. Discover how anyone can collaborate on serious scientific research.

thumbnail
UC Berkeley Professor Dan Garcia talks about the kind of "drag-and-drop," block-based, snap-together programming environments that are becoming increasingly popular as a way to introduce students of all ages to code.

thumbnail
With a smorgasbord of fun, engaging, playful, and puzzling modules available as part of the Hour of Code initiative, kids can experiment with programming basics and sample Javascript, Python, Ruby, and more.



Your Science!
What will you explore for your science project this year? What is your favorite classroom science activity? Email us a short (one to three sentences) summary of your science project or teaching tip. You might end up featured in an upcoming Science Buddies newsletter!



You may print and distribute up to 200 copies of this document annually, at no charge, for personal and classroom educational use. When printing this document, you may NOT modify it in any way. For any other use, please contact Science Buddies.