North Fork Energy LLC

North Fork Energy LLC is currently capturing 280,000 cubic feet of methane per day.  This is equivalent to taking 33,000 automobiles off the road every day.


North Fork Energy LLC is currently capturing 280,000 cubic feet of methane per day equivalent to 427 metric tons of CO2, the approximate emissions of 33,000 automobiles.  Vessels is currently planning on renovations of project to recover more methane emissions.  The mine area could be emitting around 9 million cubic feet per day of uncontrolled methane emissions equivalent to the daily emissions of over a million automobiles.

The map above is a representation of the possible different paths of methane emissions from this mine area.  The different colored areas represent different coal mines that have been active in the past.  The green lines represent possible locations of methane emissions.  Tensile fractures are caused by subsidence due to removing the coal beneath the surface.  The various creeks and river valleys are routes of erosion where the buried closed coal mines are in closer contact to the atmosphere where the methane can escape.  The red cylinder is the location of the North Fork Thermal Oxidizer that combusts methane for carbon offset credits.

This project began capturing methane emissions in 2012.  Since then it has achieved the following operational results:

  • Estimated emission reduction of to 3,683,784 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent.
  • Captured 2.4 billion cubic feet of methane emissions.
  • Equivalent to the annual emissions from 790,000 automobiles.
  • Captured estimated 46 million cubic feet of VOCs.
  • 840,000 Air Resource Board Offset Credits.

“Baseline Emissions” is a term that refers to the total methane emissions estimated to be leaking from the mine abandoned or active.  This number is represented in TCO2e.

“Project Emissions” refers to the amount of CO2 emissions created by the methane destruction project and the small amount of methane that escapes combustion.  The combustion of methane either from a generator or a combustor creates CO2 and water.

“Emission Reductions” refer to the total climate benefit achieved by the project measured in TCO2e using the IPCC fifth assessment report, and a 20-year global warming potential of methane.  Emission reductions equals total emissions captured up to the baseline emissions minus the project emissions.

Reduction Summary Report using IPCC AR5 20 years GWP metric tons of CO2 equivalent:

Baseline Emission (what would have occurred without the carbon capture) 3,739,200
Projects Emissions (emissions from the carbon capture project) -386,696
Emission Reductions 3,683,784

Computer Simulation ImageNorth Fork Energy LLC is a company operated by Vessels Coal Gas that has installed methane combustion facilities on an active and then abandoned Elk Creek Coal Mine.  The gas has had variable methane concentrations from 30%-90%.  The rest of the gas is mostly air from the atmosphere.  This is because the mine area is in communication with the atmosphere through numerous manmade and naturally occurring pathways which allows air to enter the mine and methane to escape.  Methane weighs less than air so when the atmospheric pressure rises air tends to enter the mined area and methane tends emit when the atmospheric pressure falls.  The mine gas is too contaminated with air to be shipped into a natural gas pipeline were one present at the mine (there is no pipeline for many miles).  There is no electricity market.  Thermal Oxidation (combustion) to earn carbon offset credits is the only means the energy value of this dilute methane gas can be put to beneficial use while at the same time reducing green-house gas emissions.  Public Service Company of Colorado purchased the first carbon credits from this project.  Oxbow Mining LLC, Gunnison Energy and Vessels Coal Gas contributed rights to the methane.

Coal mining has been pursued for around a hundred years in this area.  There are eight abandoned coal mines in the area of North Fork Energy’s operations.  The last working coal mine the Elk Creek Mine was closed in January 2016.  After the mine closed a computer simulation was run of the potential future methane emissions.  The simulation predicted that in 2037 over three million cubic feet of methane per day would still be emitting.

Timeline of North Fork Energy:

2019 Verification of 2018 methane capture.
2018 Request permit from BLM to capture and combust fugitive methane on BLM land.  BLM denies request and North Fork challenges denial in State Director’s Review.
2018 Begin designing mine shaft sealing program
2018 Ground flux methane surveys are conducted.  Highest concentration found was 530,000 ppm Ch4.
2018 Renovation of project to adjust to abandoned mine methane operation vs. earlier active mine methane operation.
2016 Bear Creek Thermal Oxidizer battery installed.
2016 North Fork lists project for Abandoned Mine Methane.
2016 Mine officially closed.
2014 First year of near normal operations at capacity.
2014 First ground flux methane survey conducted.  Sites with thousands of parts per million discovered.
2014 Mining is discontinued.
2013 Vessels receives Conservation Achievement Award from Western Slope Conservation Center.
2013 Thermal Oxidizer runs intermittently as spontaneous combustion events proceed.
2012 Spontaneous Combustion in the Elk Creek Mine interrupts operations of methane combustion by Thermal Oxidizer.
2012 The Thermal Oxidizer was commissioned.3
2012 Xcel Energy contracts to buy first offsets combusted by Thermal Oxidizer.2
2012 Early Action project listed with California Air Resources Board Active Mine Methane.
2012 Holy Cross and Vessels transfer Power Purchase Agreement to 3MW.
2012 Aspen Skiing Company, Gunnison, OXBOW and Vessels agree on 3MW LLC formation and transfer certain rights to 3MW LLC.
2011 Early Action Climate Action Reserve carbon offset project includes all methane from the Elk Creek borehole and methane destruction from combustion by thermal oxidation and electricity generation.
2011 OXBOW Mining, Gunnison Energy, Vessels execute North Fork Energy LLC.
2011 Holy Cross Energy and Vessels execute Power Purchase Agreement for 3 MW.
2010 OXBOW Mining, Gunnison Energy, Vessels agree in principal on electric generation project.
2010 Holy Cross Energy and Vessels agree in principal to PPA.