Methane gas, the number one killer in coal mine accidents in China, is being eyed as a source of clean energy.
A survey in Shanxi, China's major coal-producing province, shows that there are 31.1 billion cubic meters of proven coalbed methane (CBM) reserves in 870 square km of underground mined-out areas, where coal resources are exhausted.
The figures released by the Shanxi Bureau of Land Resources suggest that the province boasts one-third of the country's CBM.
The Ministry of Land Resources entrusted the Shanxi bureau to start exploitation of CBM in April 2016.
The bureau estimates that the province's 5,000 square km of sealed-off coal mines bear up to 210 billion cubic meters of CBM.
Shanxi and Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region in northern China are two of the country's leading coal-producing regions.
Amid the country's fight against pollution and supply-side structural reform to phase out outdated industries, a total of 2,802 coal mining enterprises were closed in China over the past five years, according to the China National Coal Association in October.
Around 1,000 coal mines will be closed nationwide this year, mainly in Shanxi and Inner Mongolia.
While shutting down the coal mines, the government is encouraging the utilization of CBM. It has approved financial support for demonstration projects and research on the development of a protection layer, drainage and pipelines for recovering, treating and using underground CBM.