An investigation of the relationship between coal and gas properties in the Huntly coalfield, New Zealand.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
The exploration for unconventional energy reserves has rapidly increased over the last five to ten years. Currently, there are a number of companies actively exploring for coalbed methane (CBM) in New Zealand. This study investigates one of these prospects, the subbituminous Huntly coalfield.
Coal core was retrieved from the two major seams in the coalfield, the Renown and the Kupakupa. Three coals types were identified (1) bright lustre, non-banded, (2) bright lustre, moderately banded and (3) bright lustre, highly banded. As the degree of banding increases, the average thickness of the vitrain bands increase, the amount of structured vitrinite macerals also increase and the vitrodetrinite content decreases. The Renown seam is predominantly composed of bright non-banded coal while in the Kupakupa seam the more banded coal types are dominant.
On average, the Renown seam has both the capacity to hold more gas and has higher gas contents than the stratigraphically lower Kupakupa seam. Additionally, gas content, on average, was found to be highest in intervals of the non-banded coal type and lowest in the highly banded coal type. Cluster analysis found that gas content is associated with hydrogen, volatile matter, calorific value and collodetrinite. As such, gas appears to be preferentially retained/produced in the matrix-dominated material. While not causally linked with gas content, gas holding capacity showed associations with the sporinite, inertodetrinite, funginite and vitrodetrinite; of note, these macerals are highest in the non-banded coal type. Gas holding capacity is thought to be a function of coal texture.
Ash yield was found to inversely affect total gas content when ash yield is >10%. Below 10%, it is thought that inorganic elements are organically bound. The small angle scattering analysis indicated that inorganic matter was in the 12.5 Å < r < 125 Å pore size range. The influence of inorganic material was more noticeable in vitrain than matrix samples and is proposed to exist as thin inorganic coatings.
Total porosity of the Huntly coal is primarily composed of micropores with macroporosity only contributing a small proportion. In addition, the specific surface area of the coals is also largely contributed by the micropores. Methane holding capacity on a dry, ash-free basis showed positive correlations with both micro- and macroporosity. When methane holding capacity was considered on an ‘as analysed’ basis, correlation was only identified with macroporosity. Possibly gas holding capacity is affected by the presence of moisture blocking access to gas adsorption sites in smaller pores.
Considerable variation is present in both gas adsorption and gas desorption results between drill holes, between seams and also within individual seam intersections. Gas adsorption capacity and gas content are used to calculate % saturation for a reservoir, a key assessment parameter. It was found that multiple samples of both gas adsorption capacity and gas content are required to reduce the uncertainty around the calculated % saturation (at least three of each in the current study). Additionally, adsorption isotherm samples need to be collected as fresh as possible to minimize oxidation and moisture loss. Delaying sample analysis was found to result in an overestimation of gas adsorption capacity.