Is Coalbed Methane a Mineral?

Found this very interesting article and wonder if this could change the landscape of things……

Who owns coalbed methane?

Landowners staking claim in coalbed methane production

Monday August 18, 2008

The resource is there for the taking. A previously untapped pool at times contentious and, of late, an alternative to add to Alberta’s energy powerhouse.

But who owns it? The people of Alberta through the auspices of the provincial government, or landowners who hold title to the very soil this pool rests on?

In the last year, a small group of rural landowners is gaining momentum and strength in an unprecedented bid to stake their claim to the province’s burgeoning coalbed methane resource.

The United Landowners of Alberta have stepped forward alleging the provincial government who has title to all mines and minerals has no claim when it come to coalbed methane since the group contends the gas is biogenic in origin and must be treated no differently than wind or solar power.

In a nutshell, the Alberta government isn’t the rightful owner. Landowners are.

ULA spokesman Don Bester said scientific evidence is building on the origins of Alberta’s coal bed methane, a type of natural gas found in underground coal seams.

Bester said recent studies indicate much of the methane is renewable and is constantly created by bacteria in a biogenic process. Basically, the ULA contends as a “real time” renewable resource, the government’s claim on coalbed methane is moot.

The group has even re-dubbed coalbed methane as RBG or Renewable Biogenic Gas since they conclude the organisms that create the gas, anaerobic bacteria, can be “fed.”

“Anaerobic bacteria can survive without oxygen and uses carbon dioxide or water as a catalyst to their production. The byproduct of their production is renewable biogenic gas.”

Quite the claim since the government forwards the argument regardless of how a gas is created, it’s a gas and, thus, belongs to all Albertans.

Thermogenic gas can be created two ways. One is when it is formed at deeper depths by thermal cracking of sedimentary organic matter into hydrocarbon liquids and gas (this gas is co-genetic with oil, and is called “primary” thermogenic gas), and the second is thermal cracking of oil at high temperatures into gas “secondary” thermogenic gas and pyrobitumen.

“Let’s make one very clear point here,” said Alberta Energy spokesman Sean Beardow. “Coalbed methane is a natural gas and therefore it is owned by Albertans. How it is created, whether it’s thermogenic or biogenic subsurface natural gas. Whichever takes hundreds of thousands of years to produce thus calling it s renewable resource like wind or solar is a bit of a misnomer.”

And therein lies the rub.

If the ULA’s “scientific” claims are correct that biogenic gas can be created in real time then the province’s own push to create carbon capture and storage could be the emergence of a truly renewable resource since the CO2 is needed to feed the anaerobic bacteria. Now if all that is true, then the legal issue comes into play as to who owns it.

Bester contends although the government can lay claim to all rights for mines and minerals, a gas created in real time could disrupt that claim arguing the Farmer’s Advocate position “that we landowners of title hold to the heaven and hell theory.”

Thus, a court action like no other.

“We’ve done our homework. Done our research and even government research is now supporting our position, but the government has no comment,” said Bester.

Bester likened this revelation to a landowner who wishes to produce methane gas through a hog or dairy operation. Does it matter then if the gas, according to the ULA’s position as a real time organic byproduct, is produced above ground or below?

The argument also transcends to whether or not a landowner’s property can be accessed to tap said resource.

Companies are currently required to negotiate access agreements with landowners in order to tap a natural gas source. Even if the landowner doesn’t agree, a company can still proceed to drill because the Crown owns the resource and provincial board determines how much compensation a landowner should receive.
What the ULA alleges flies in the face of convention since most industry players are likely to take the position that methane is a mineral.

A 2006 study completed by the Alberta Geological Survey and U of A alludes although most of Alberta’s methane production has centred on the Alberta Horseshoe Canyon and is thermogenic gas that methane in the Ardley coal zone could have a biogenic source.

Therefore by very strict definition, as interpreted by the ULA, RBG cannot be a mineral.

The ULA will also be challenging the Energy Resources Conservation Board’s right to issue drilling licences to oil and gas companies who do not have the landowner’s approval to develop RBG that is under the Landowner’s subsurface ownership.

The Alberta Surface Rights Board will be included in the action as the ULA further states the Board has no right to grant Right of Entry Orders which is giving oil and gas companies the right to subsurface trespass and the right to directional drill under an adjacent Landowner’s subsurface.

Bester said the Landowner’s ownership of RBG will have far reaching implications in the future as many previously developed CBM projects will come into play as Petroleum and Natural Gas rights that the Industry has acquired through the Crown have potentially been obtained illegally.

Bester is encouraging all Landowners are encouraged to attend and join the organization in order to gain further information and assistance in their rightful claim of ownership of RBG. Information regarding upcoming meetings will be posted in the near future on the Alberta Surface Rights website and numerous media outlets.

The first information meeting is to be held in Taber at the Heritage Inn Aug. 6.

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