News & Recent Publications
Tuesday, May 12, 2015
USGS Publication: Professional Paper 1809
This report presents the final results of the first assessment of both coal resources and reserves for all significant coal beds in the entire Powder River Basin, northeastern Wyoming and southeastern Montana. The basin covers about 19,500 square miles, exclusive of the part of the basin within the Crow and Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservations in Montana...
Tuesday, May 12, 2015
USGS Publication: Data Series 912
The purpose of this report is to provide geospatial data for various layers and themes in a Geographic Information System (GIS) format for the Powder River Basin, Wyoming and Montana. In 2015, as part of the U.S. Coal Resources and Reserves Assessment Project, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) completed an assessment of coal resources and reserves within the Powder River Basin, Wyoming and Montana...
Tuesday, May 12, 2015
USGS Technical Release
The latest coal resource assessment of the Powder River Basin showcases the newly revised USGS’ assessment methodology, which, for the first time, includes an estimate of the reserve base for the entire basin.
Wednesday, March 25, 2015
USGS Technical Release & Publication
Appalachian coal and petroleum resources are still available in sufficient quantities to contribute significantly to fulfilling the nation’s energy needs, according to a recent study by the USGS.
Thursday, March 19, 2015
USGS Publication: Professional Paper 1708
Fossil fuels from the Appalachian basin region have been major contributors to the Nation’s energy supplies over much of the last three centuries. Appalachian coal and petroleum resources are still available in sufficient quantities to contribute significantly to fulfilling the Nation’s energy needs. Although both conventional oil and gas continue to be produced in the Appalachian basin, most new wells in the region are drilled in shale reservoirs to produce natural gas...
Friday, December 19, 2014
USGS Publication: SIR 2014-5196
Standards for the public disclosure of mineral resources and reserves do not require the use of any specific methodology when it comes to estimating the reliability of the resources. Unbeknownst to most intended recipients of resource appraisals, such freedom commonly results in subjective opinions or estimations based on suboptimal approaches, such as use of distance...
Tuesday, May 28, 2013
Outside Publication: International Journal of Coal Geology In spite of its large endowment of coal resources, recent studies have indicated that United States coal production is destined to reach a maximum and begin an irreversible decline sometime during the middle of the current century. However, studies and assessments illustrating coal reserve data essential for making accurate forecasts of United States coal production have not been compiled on a national basis.
Monday, April 22, 2013
Map Showing Principal Coal Beds and Bedrock Geology of the Ucross-Arvada Area, Central Powder River Basin, Wyoming
USGS Publication: Scientific Investigations Map 3240The Ucross-Arvada area is part of the Powder River Basin, a large, north-trending structural depression between the Black Hills on the east and the Bighorn Mountains on the west. Almost all of the study area is within Sheridan and Johnson Counties, Wyoming.
Tuesday, April 02, 2013
National Coal Resource Assessment Updated Version
USGS Publication: Open-File Report 2012–1205
This map sheet with accompanying Geographic Information System (GIS) project is an update of the existing U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Conterminous U.S. Coal Fields map. This update was compiled using data primarily from the USGS National Coal Resource Assessment (NCRA) and information from other published maps.
Thirty seven percent of the electricity produced in the United States is generated by coal-fired power plants. Statistically, the United States has abundant supplies of coal. However, understanding how much of that supply of coal is actually economically recoverable and of sufficient quality to meet current emission standards is important to ensure adequate energy supplies in the future. Therefore, in energy assessments, it is not only essential to determine the in-place coal resources, but also to inventory the coal reserves. Coal reserve estimates provide a more accurate appraisal of how much of the total U.S. coal resource base is realistically available for production in the near and mid-term future.
Photo: Coal extraction in a Powder River, Wyoming
There is often confusion concerning the use of the terms coal “resources” and “reserves.” Although the two terms are frequently used interchangeably, there are significant differences. Coal resources include in-place tonnage estimates determined by summing the volumes for identified and undiscovered deposits of coal with a minimum thickness. Coal reserves are a subset of the coal resources. To be classified as reserves, the coal must be considered economically producible at the time of classification, but facilities for extraction need not be in place and operative.
The next generation of U.S. coal assessments will not only be a refinement of the coal resources, but also the systematic determination of the regional coal reserve base in all the major coal provinces in the U.S. The first U.S. coal basin to be evaluated in this new assessment phase is the Powder River Basin, WY (PRB). The PRB is the single most important coal basin in the U.S. production-wise, supplying over 42 percent of the total coal produced in the U.S. in 2003.
The USGS Energy Resources Program research efforts yield modern, digital assessments of the quantity, quality, location, and accessibility of the Nation’s coal resources.
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Powder River Basin, Wyoming
Powder River Basin, Wyoming Coal Assessment
In 2009, the USGS completed the first digital National Coal Resource Assessment (NCRA) of in-place coal resources. The current generation of U.S. coal assessments will not only be a refinement of the coal resources, but also the systematic determination of the regional coal reserve base in all the major coal provinces in the U.S. The reserve base provides not only estimates of coal resources that are... [+]
currently economic (reserves), but what may become economic with current technologies (recoverable resources), which is important from a national energy security and policy standpoint. The first U.S. coal basin to be evaluated in this new assessment phase is the Powder River Basin, WY (PRB). The PRB is the single most important coal basin in the U.S. production-wise, supplying over 42 percent of the total coal produced in the U.S. in 2012.
National Coal Resource
National Coal Resource Assessment (NCRA)
The NCRA project was a multi-year effort by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Energy Resources Program to identify, characterize, and assess the coal resources that will supply a major part of the Nation’s energy needs during the next few decades. The purpose of the NCRA was to (1) digitally assess selected coal beds and zones that will be the most important in the next few decades, (2) create publicly available stratigraphic,... [+]
geochemical, and geographic information system (GIS) databases to answer a variety of questions to government, industry and public decision makers, and (3) provide interpretive geologic and geochemical information for the primary coal resources of the Nation.
The NCRA study was a five-region project designed to provide a geologic assessment of the top-producing coal beds and coal zones in the United States. The five regions include:
(1) Northern and Central Appalachian Basin
(2) Gulf Coast
(3) Illinois Basin
(4) Colorado Plateau
(5) Northern Rocky Mountains and Great Plains
The NCRA was a cooperative effort between the USGS and a number of State geological surveys in these coal-bearing regions. A study of coal resources on Federal lands was also conducted.
The USGS coal resource assessments have produced coal resource maps and descriptions, or models, that identify and characterize the coal beds and coal zones that will provide the bulk of the U.S. production for the next several decades. The assessments are designed to provide geoscientists, policy makers, planners, and the general public with concise geologic information on the quantity and quality of the remaining coal resources. Official ERP coal assessment methodologies are currently available within this website.
NCRA geochemical databases will provide accurate and comprehensive information to aid in the prediction of potential emissions from the combustion of coal from of those coal beds and coal zones. In addition, NCRA data can directly aid in the delineation of areas with potential for coal-bed methane production, mine flooding, surface subsidence, and acid mine drainage.
The USGS Energy Resources Program researches and provides studies on the quantity, quality, and location of the Nation’s coal resources and has world class research facilities investigating coal petrology and coal quality. These studies address coal extraction, utilization and disposal issues, human health and environmental impact issues, and identify suitable resources for the Nation’s electric power generation.
The U.S. Geological Survey Energy Resources Program has developed coal databases to monitor the location, quantity, and physical and chemical characteristics of U.S. coal and coal-related deposits.
Coal fields of the conterminous United States—National Coal Resource Assessment updated version (contains downloadable GIS and metadata files):
USGS Open-File Report 2012–1205
Drill hole data for coal beds in the Powder River Basin, Montana and Wyoming:
USGS Data Series 713
Coal database for Cook Inlet and North Slope, Alaska:
USGS Digital Data Series 599
Shallow Coal Exploration Drill-Hole Data—Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas:
USGS Open-File Report 2011-1262
Page Last Modified: Wednesday, December 03, 2014
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