The authors of the present paper designed and constructed a prototype of an instrument which enables fully automated determination of the desorbable methane content and effective diffusion coefficient in underground conditions. Due to microprocessor analysis of the recorded data and the application of the mathematical model of the diffusion process, it is possible to automatically determine the amount of methane whose release from a coal sample occurred before the sample was placed within a measuring instrument. It is also possible to carry out follow-up extrapolation of the recorded data so the time duration needed to determine reliable results can be reduced. The instrument was tested and optimized, and a number of copies sufficient for performing underground tests were constructed. The concept of the instrument represents a totally new approach to the observation of gas release from a coal sample. Instead of short-period measurements, virtually the whole process of methane release from coal is registered and analysed. This is possibly due to the use of a grain fraction lower than one mm which is presently applied for the sake of evaluating the methane- bearing capacity and desorption intensity.
The unipore methane diffusion model based on the solution of the second Fick’s law describes effectively the kinetics of methane release from coal grains. The knowledge of the model describing the kinetics of methane release from coal, the coalbed methane content, the sorption isotherm, the effective diffusion coefficient and the coal particle size distribution, enables the calculation of the volume of methane which is released from the coal spoil as a function of time. These assumptions became the basis for building the software that enables the analysis of methane emissions from coal during the longwall mining. Simulations were performed to determine the temporal and spatial methane inflow to the longwall. The share of methane emission from coal grains (taking into account both the emission kinetics and mass participation) of various classes has been analyzed. The results of the analysis showed that the methane from the small grains, in particular less than 0.1 mm in size, prevails. The mass fraction of these grains in the total weight does not exceed 5%. For the typical parameters determining the mining, geological and technological conditions of methane emissions at different moments of time and position of the longwall were determined.