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Coal Mine Methane

Coal mines leak methane - in fact they leak a similar amount every year to the world’s gas industry or the world’s oil industry.
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Overview

Methane leaks are supercharging the climate crisis

Methane has a short-term climate impact 82.5 times larger than CO2. Ember’s research has revealed that coal mine methane leaks have a greater impact on climate change than the EU’s total annual emissions

The IEA that ~42 million tonnes of methane leaked from coal mines in 2022. That means the short-term climate impact of coal mines is equivalent to emissions of 3,465 million tonnes of CO2 each year, greater than the combined CO2 from all the world’s shipping & aviation.

Methane is embedded in coal seams and surrounding rock strata, and is emitted before, during and long after the mining process. 

According to Ember calculations using IEA data, the top four countries – China, Russia, Indonesia and India – are responsible for 76% (~32Mt) of global coal mine methane emissions. 

Last updated: March 2023

Ember position

Coal mine leaks need to be prioritised alongside oil and gas methane leaks

Coal mine methane emissions must fall by 75% by 2030 to be on track for 1.5 degrees, according to the IEA’s Net Zero analysis.

Cutting methane is the strongest lever we have to slow climate change in the short term, and at Ember we think coal mine methane reductions play a vital role. That will be achieved through a rapid fall in coal power, closing the leakiest mines first, and applying technologies to minimise leaks before, during and after mining happens. 

24% of coal mine methane emissions are from metallurgical coal, as opposed to thermal coal, so targeting coal power alone is not an option. Since the steel sector will take longer to ditch coal than the electricity sector, the strategy for metallurgical coal must focus more on technology to reduce emissions.

The European Union can lead the way on stopping coal mine methane leaks – our research has revealed that almost two-thirds of EU leaks come from coal mines in Poland, and we’ve been aiming to shape the methane strategy to effectively cut these leaks.

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