Uncertainty assessment tier

The primary causes of the uncertainty related to the Tier 1 methodology include the following:

• The global nature of the emission factors. The range of uncertainty of these emission factors is intentionally large to account for the uncertainty in the determining parameters such as mine size, mine depth, and coal rank.

• Time of abandonment. Because emissions from abandoned mines are strongly time dependent, selecting a single interval that best represents the dates of closure for all mines is critical in establishing an emissions rate.

• The activity data. Both the number of gassy abandoned mines and the amount of coal that has been produced from gassy mines are strongly country-dependent. The uncertainty will be defined by the availability of historic mining and production records.

The total estimated range of uncertainty associated with Tier 1 estimations will depend on each of the factors discussed above. Actual emissions are likely to be in the range of one-third to three times the estimated emissions value.


The primary causes of uncertainty related to the Tier 2 approaches include the following:

• The country- or basin-specific emission factors. Uncertainty is associated with the emission factor decline equations for each coal rank. This uncertainty is a function of the inherent variability of gas content, adsorption characteristics, and permeability within a given coal rank.

• The number of mines producing a given coal rank.

• The number of mines abandoned through time.

• The percentage of gassy mines as a function of time.

The total estimated uncertainty associated with Tier 2 estimations depends on the range of uncertainty associated with each of these factors. These parameters should be more narrowly defined than for Tier 1. Thus, total actual emissions are likely to be in the range of one-half to twice the estimated value.


The primary uncertainties associated with emissions inventories generated using the Tier 3 methodology include the following:

• Active mine emission rate

• Decline curve equation or modelling approach that describes the function relating adsorption characteristics and gas content of the coal, mine size, and coal permeability

• Hydrological status of the abandoned mine (flooded or flooding) and condition (sealed or vented).

The Tier 3 methodology has lower associated uncertainty than Tiers 1 and 2 because the emissions inventory is based either on direct measurements or on mine-specific information including active emission rates and mine closure dates. Although the range of uncertainty associated with estimated emissions from an individual mine may be large (in the ±50 percent range), summing the uncertainty range of a sufficient number of individual mine emissions actually reduces the range of uncertainty of the final inventory, per the central limits theorem (Murtha, 2002), provided the uncertainties are independent. Given the expected range of the number of abandoned coal mines across different countries, the overall uncertainty associated with Tier 3 methodology for abandoned mines may vary from ±20 percent for countries with a large number of abandoned mines to ±30 percent for a country with a fewer number of abandoned mines whose emissions are included in the inventory.

A combination of different Tiers may be used. For example, the emissions from mines abandoned during the first half of the twentieth century may be determined using a Tier 1 method, while emissions from mines abandoned after 1950 may be determined using a Tier 2 method. The Tier 1 and Tier 2 methods will each have their own uncertainty distribution. It is important to properly sum these distributions in order to arrive at the appropriate range of uncertainty for the final emissions inventory.

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