South African mining company to test underground train fuelled by natural gas

mine-LorenzoGiove-flickrAccording to Molopo South Africa, the new locomotive will help reduce fuel costs and exposure of miners to noxious fumes. (Image source: LorenzoGiove/Flickr) South African exploration company Molopo South Africa and mining group Sibanye Gold will test an underground train designed to run on biogenic gas in South Africa

Biogenic gas is produced by bacteria interacting with ancient decomposing plant to release methane. This gas has been discovered in South Africa’s Free State province, which lies close to mining prospects like Harmony Gold, Sibanye Gold and Petra Diamonds, stated a report in Reuters.

Molopo South Africa officials confirmed that they have discovered 2.8bn cu/m of recoverable biogenic gas at the Free State gas fields, with an upside potential of 28bn cu/m. They are keen to test a locomotive that would run on biogenic gas, instead of diesel, which would fuel costs by 25 per cent and significantly reduce the extent of fumes miners would be exposed to.

Stefano Marani, a director at Molopo South Africa revealed that a locomotive recently tested on ground managed to pull eight wagons carrying a 30-tonne load – the equivalent of those pulled by diesel engines. If safety and gas distribution systems are successfully tested, the Molopo South Africa could begin replacing part of its fleet of 570 diesel engines within two years.

Karel Opperman, vice president of engineering at Sibanye Gold, added, “A successful implementation will greatly improve our working environment, reduce our carbon footprint, improve the efficiency of our operations and reduce the pressure on South Africa’s power grid.”

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