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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Researchers offer hope of answer to Bing fires

Researchers at the Universities of Edinburgh and Strathclyde have studied a burning Bing. A 30 m high waste heap at Bogside, North Lanarkshire, Scotland, started to smoulder (flameless combustion) in 2009, approximately 80 years after the closure of the pit. They are studying how the fires develop and spread, and hope their new understanding will enable development of a low-cost effective way to manage or extinguish the fires.

This will help protect local communities by limiting the risk of landslip, and also safeguard local ecosystems and the environment. There are hundredds of these bings in Scotland alone. The threat of burning and risk of land movement pose a risk to those who live nearby. Anything we can do to limit the potential harm to local people and the environment is a step in the right direction.

The work was presented at the Geological Society of America Annual Meeting: Investigation of self-sustained combustion of a coal waste heap in Scotland. It was also featured in the The Scotsman, Edinburgh website, Strathclyde website, and Vision Systems (on our use of thermal imaging).

Coal mining was widespread in the central belt of Scotland from 1830 until the 1970’s and created a legacy of waste heaps or ‘bings’ that still dot the landscape. High content of coal fines and carbonaceous shales, make bings very prone to self-heating and smoldering combustion. Chemical, geotechnical and physical parameters of the Bogside Bing have been studied.

A combustion front is seen moving from west to east along the axis of the bing at an approximate rate of 1m/month. Three well-defined zones were identified and mapped using thermal imagery and temperature probes: the undisturbed zone, the preheating plus drying zone and the combustion zone. The subsurface fire results in a detrimental effect to the vegetation and structural integrity of the heap. Spread of the combustion is accompanied by the development of vents ahead of the front, fissures that run parallel to the direction of heating and smaller landslips along the flanks. Changes to the heap's soil mechanics induced by the smouldering front create a network of fissures, some running deep, that supply the front with enough air to sustain the process.

Analysis of gas from the vents, show elevated CO2, CO, CH4 and SO2, and partially depleted in oxygen. All these are indicative of smouldering activity within the bing. The primary environmental concerns are likely to be from SO2 release and metals leaching from waste material (i.e. Pb, Se, Cr). The stability of the structure may be compromised as smouldering progresses. Bogside Bing continues to release products of combustion and represents an accidental source of fossil fuel burning.


Guillermo Rein said...

There is a second bing burning in the same are. See recent video here:

Be the one said...
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