Coal Bed Methane: Understanding the Process from Exploration through to Production

Course Description

CBM is a key unconventional gas, and has an important role to play in future energy supply. Understanding CBM requires an understanding of sedimentary geological processes, hydrology, and practical engineering concepts that are quite different to the conventional oil and gas experience. This course provides a structured approach to learning, building on the basic skills requirements and scientific foundations that lead to informed decision making on the viability of CBM projects. An emphasis on practical outcomes and case studies is a feature of the course.

Introduction: The Background to CBM

  • Overview of the global CBM industry
  • What is CBM and how it formed?
  • What is the CBM/coal relationship?
  • CBM and the global energy mix

CBM Fundamentals: The "Essential Science"

  • Coal and why gas is in it
  • Basin analysis, the sedimentary and tectonic framework for coal formation
  • Reservoir character
  • Key concepts: gas content, saturation, permeability, and net coal
  • Gas layering in the subsurface
  • Sampling and exploration—gathering the right data
  • Where are favourable formations for CBM?

CBM Production and Drilling

  • How can we produce gas? What are our options?
  • Production and completion methods
  • State of the game in Australia and overseas

CBM Water and Greenhouse Emissions

  • The 'environmental' side of CBM
  • The relationship between water and gas in CBM
  • The new greenhouse game and implications for CBM

CBM Resources and Reserves

  • How we measure resources and reserves and why it is important
  • What do we need to do to increase reserves?
  • Pitfalls and caveats: understanding reserve certification reports
  • Tenure: the competition between mining, CBM and other uses of coal

Wrap-Up and Discussion

  • Review of the major factors that determine success or otherwise of a CBM play
  • Where to from here? What can likely be done to improve CBM economics?
  • The impact of LNG—where will future CBM efforts be targeted?

Learning Outcomes

  • Understand the historical development of CBM and the peculiarities of the Australian scene relative to the international experience
  • Understand the key parameters that make or break a CBM project
  • Learn the essential science behind CBM
  • Understand the relationship between water and gas in CBM and the implications
  • Determine which production and completion technique will work for you, and why
  • Learn what greenhouse emissions mean to the CBM industry
  • Comprehend the differences between resources and reserves and the requirements to move resources to reserves
  • Understand the basic economic drivers behind CBM projects
  • Participate in practical discussions and exercises that enhance practical understanding

Who Should Attend

The course is generally applicable to anyone who would like to understand more about CBM, including petroleum engineers, mining engineers, geologists, potential investors in CBM projects, and financial analysts. The course is designed to be particularly accessible to young professionals, and those who may already have a conventional background, who wish to understand more about this important unconventional resource.


Engineers are responsible for enhancing their professional competence throughout their careers. Licensed, chartered, and or/ certified engineers are sometimes required by government entities to provide proof of continued professional development and training. Training credits are defined as Continuing Education Units (CEUs) or Professional Development Hours (PDH).

Attendees of SPE training courses earn 0.8 CEUs for each day of training. We provide each attendee a certificate upon completion of the training course.



Scott Thomson is a geologist with over 30 years’ experience in the coal mining and energy industries. He has held leadership roles in industry and has worked as a consultant to the Coal Bed Methane (CBM) and coal mining industry for the past 15 years. He has been a managing director of a leading directional drilling service and technology supply company, and a Research Leader in coal seam gas associated with a major Australian CRC.

Scott is managing director of CoalBed Energy Consultants (, which provides project management, technical services, business development, due diligence, and consulting services in CBM (CSG), Coal Mine Methane (CMM), fugitive emissions and related areas. CoalBed counts in its client list all of the major mining companies in Australia, and many CBM players. Scott and his son Duncan have developed a popular training course in CBM Fundamentals, which has been delivered to a range of clients in Australia and overseas.

CoalBed have developed unique skills in the evaluation of fugitive emissions from shallow open cut mining operations and act as estimators for companies reporting to the National Greenhouse Officer for Carbon Tax compliance. The company also manages surface to inseam directional drilling programs for geological exploration and degasification, and have developed expertise in the use of directional drilling data for improved geological modelling.

Scott has worked in most of the major coal seam gas basins throughout the world, and assisted with technology transfer of advanced directional drilling technology into emerging markets such as China, India, South Africa, and Eastern Europe. Recent CBM related experience includes developing fields in Indonesia, Mongolia, South America, and Southern Africa.

Scott is the author of a number of papers that have been published in a range of journals and proceedings, and was also a co‐recipient of the prestigious Stefanko Award for best paper at the 2007 SME Conference in Denver, Colorado, USA, for a paper titled, "A Petroleum Industry Approach to Coal Mine Drainage."

He holds a BSc in geology from the University of Newcastle, an MSc in geology from the University of New England and an MBA from Deakin University. He is a member of the Geological Society of Australia and the Society of Petroleum Engineers.