Massey Provides Methane Detector Information

Aug 30, 2010, 17:33 ET from Massey Energy Company

JULIAN, W.Va., Aug. 30 /PRNewswire/ -- Today, Massey Energy Company (NYSE: MEE) released further information following an August 27, 2010 Associated Press report that a handheld methane detector found in the Upper Big Branch mine documented the presence of explosive levels of methane associated with the April 5, 2010 explosion.

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The detector referenced in the Associated Press report was one of two detectors previously discussed by Massey and described in a report by the Wall Street Journal on August 10, 2010.  The Company also provided information on the handheld detectors to UBB family members in a family meeting held on August 2, 2010.

Massey wishes to note the following information about the detectors:

  • The detectors were recovered shortly after the accident and tested by MSHA on July 8, 2010.
  • The detectors continuously monitor for methane, carbon monoxide, oxygen and temperature and record the highest reading for each every three minutes.  
  • The maximum reading on these detectors is 5% for methane and 500 ppm for carbon monoxide.  Methane is explosive at concentrations of 5% to 15%.  Carbon monoxide is caused by incomplete combustion.  
  • Recorded data show that both detectors surged from zero to maximum readings for methane (5%) and carbon monoxide (500 ppm) within a three minute span near 3 pm on April 5, 2010.  Actual levels of methane and carbon monoxide could have been higher, as these detectors do not record levels higher than 5% for methane or 500 ppm for carbon monoxide.  
  • The detectors also record alarms every 15 seconds.  "Low range" alarms occur at .5% methane and 35 ppm carbon monoxide.  "High range" alarms occur at 1% methane and 100 ppm carbon monoxide.  "Over range" alarms are triggered at 5% methane and 500 ppm carbon monoxide.  
  • Testing indicates that one detector, found at the longwall face, went from no alarm to an "over range" alarm for methane and carbon monoxide in less than 15 seconds near 3 pm.  
  • Testing indicates that the second detector, found around 3,000 feet from the first detector, recorded a "high range" alarm of 1% for methane and an "over range" alarm of 500 ppm for carbon monoxide.  Within 16 to 30 more seconds, the detector recorded an "over range" alarm for methane.  This also occurred near 3 pm.

Massey believes this information is very important.  The data strongly suggest that these detectors were exposed to a sudden inundation of methane and a simultaneous or near simultaneous fire or explosion, as measured by high levels of carbon monoxide.    

Massey will continue its efforts to investigate the accident and update the families.

Massey Energy Company, headquartered in Richmond, Virginia, with operations in West Virginia, Kentucky and Virginia, is the largest coal producer in Central Appalachia and is included in the S&P 500 Index.  

SOURCE Massey Energy Company