Methane Leak at Russian Mine Could Be Largest Ever Discovered

About 90 tonnes of methane an hour were released from the Raspadskaya coal mine in January, data from the GHGSat global satellite shows.

A blast is seen at the Raspadskaya cola mine in Russia.
Source: Bloomberg/Getty Images

Possibly the world’s biggest leak of methane has been discovered coming from a coal mine in Russia, which has been pouring out the carbon dioxide equivalent of five coal-fired power stations.

About 90 tonnes an hour of methane were being released from the mine in January, when the gas was first traced to its source, according to data from GHGSat, a commercial satellite monitoring company based in Canada. Sustained over the course of a year, this would produce enough natural gas to power 2.4 million homes.

More recently, the mine appears to be leaking at a lower rate, of about a third of the highest rate recorded in January, but the leak is thought to have been active for at least 6 months before January’s survey.

The leak, which comes from the Raspadskaya mine in Kemerovo Oblast, the largest coalmine in Russia, is about 50% bigger than any other leak seen by GHGSat since it started its global satellite monitoring in 2016. The company said it believes it is bigger than any leak yet traced to a single source.

Brody Wight, director of energy, landfill, and mines at GHGSat, said that methane was an often overlooked side-effect of coal mining that added to the climate impact of burning coal. The Raspadskaya leak would add about 25% to the greenhouse-gas emissions of burning any coal produced from the mine, he estimated.

“We are seeing an increase in methane from this site generally, which could be the result of increased coal production, linked to global trends in coal use,” he said.

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