As a result of its early work in the 1980s, GTI provided a fundamental understanding about coalbed methane upon which others have built their technologies. We determined that, because of the way natural gas is adsorbed onto the coal and, in some cases, the presence of significant volumes of water, coalbed methane is not produced like other resources. As a result, a new strategy was developed that took into account the mechanisms needed for dewatering, resource evaluation, determining the amount of gas in place in an adsorption environment, and fracturing in coal. As cost-effective alternatives to reinjection, methods for environmentally acceptable discharge of the mineral-laden water often produced with coalbed methane were developed. GTI also developed guidebooks to help producers optimize all aspects of coalbed methane operations, and created computer-based simulators and other tools to explore options for fracturing a coal formation to boost gas production.
Our researchers, working with dozens of partner organizations from industry and academia, led a comprehensive program to document those regions with the greatest coalbed methane potential, providing assessments of recoverable coalbed methane in six major geologic basins and comprehensive models for two major basins in New Mexico and Alabama that Amoco and Arco (now both BP) and other producers used to evaluate drilling risks, design fracture treatments, and educate investors. When GTI started its coalbed methane R&D in the early 1980s, production across the U.S. was less than 50 Bcf per year. In 2012, it is now upwards of 1,800 Bcf per year.