Coal: a traditional source of energy

Fire-damp and methane

Fire-damp has always been a source of terror for miners in coal districts. It is formed from the initial biological matter during geological processes in the course of carbonization. Fire-damp has somewhat different composition than natural gas accompanying oil, therefore it is sometimes called "carboniferous natural gas".


Composition of carboniferous natural gas:

  • methane – 92.5 %
  • higher hydrocarbons – 2.25 %
  • the so-called inerts (mostly nitrogen and carbon dioxide) – 6.3 %


Fire-damp mixed with air presents a highly explosive mixture. In the Ostrava-Karviná district geological circumstances caused a situation where fire-damp could not leak through impermeable overlying layers and remained in the deposit.


However, fire-damp is not only the threat. Methane – its main component – has an outstanding calorific value of 35 MJ/m3.


Miners had to constantly face the presence of fire-damp. This is evidenced by ingenious burners which, owing to metal screens with high-density meshes, did not let the flame into the surrounding environment, thus preventing explosion. The burners also had a warning function: according to the flame’s length the miners could tell the concentration of the dangerous gas. Nowadays the burners are replaced with modern analytical instruments.