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Article Thumbnail Image 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...
Tuesday, May 28, 2013  Type: Outside Publication

Article Thumbnail Image The 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.
Monday, April 22, 2013  Type: Publication

Article Thumbnail Image 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...
Tuesday, April 02, 2013  Type: Publication

Article Thumbnail Image This report by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) of the Powder River Basin (PRB) of Montana and Wyoming is part of the U.S. Coal Resources and Reserves Assessment Project. Essential to that project was the creation of a comprehensive drill hole database that was used for coal bed correlation and for...
Tuesday, February 26, 2013  Type: Publication

Article Thumbnail Image Using a geology-based assessment methodology, the U.S. Geological Survey estimated in-place resources of 1.07 trillion short tons of coal in the Powder River Basin, Wyoming and Montana. Of that total, with a maximum stripping ratio of 10:1, recoverable coal was 162 billion tons. The estimate of...
Tuesday, February 26, 2013  Type: Publication

Article Thumbnail Image The purpose of this report is to summarize geology, coal resources, and coal reserves in the Montana Powder River Basin assessment area in southeastern Montana. This report represents the fourth assessment area within the Powder River Basin to be evaluated in the continuing U.S. Geological Survey...
Tuesday, February 26, 2013  Type: Publication

Article Thumbnail Image The Powder River Basin of Wyoming and Montana contains about 162 billion short tons (BST) of recoverable coal from a total of 1.07 trillion short tons of in-place resources according to a new USGS assessment. This assessment also estimates that 25 BST of those resources are currently economical...
Tuesday, February 26, 2013  Type: Press Release & Publication

Article Thumbnail Image This study updates a stratigraphic cross section published as plate 2 in USGS Digital Data Series 69-G. The datum is a marine/tidal ravinement surface within the Cozzette Sandstone Member of the Iles Formation and the Thompson Canyon Sandstone and Sulphur Canyon Sandstone Beds of the...
Thursday, January 03, 2013  Type: Publication

Article Thumbnail Image There are multiple ways to characterize uncertainty in the assessment of coal resources, but not all of them are equally satisfactory. Increasingly, the tendency is toward borrowing from the statistical tools developed in the last 50 years for the quantitative assessment of other mineral commodities...
Wednesday, November 28, 2012  Type: Outside Publication

Article Thumbnail Image This study presents geostatistical simulations of coal-quality parameters, major oxides and trace metals for an area covering roughly 812 km2 of the Blue Gem coal bed in southeastern Kentucky, USA. The Blue Gem, characterized by low ash yield and low sulfur content, is an important economic resource...
Thursday, November 08, 2012  Type: Outside Publication
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Overview

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.

Coal extraction in a Powder River, Wyoming coal mine
Photo: Coal extraction in a Powder River, Wyoming
coal mine.

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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Research

Powder River Basin, Wyoming Coal Assessment
Powder River Basin, Wyoming
Coal Assessment

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 Assessment (NCRA)
National Coal Resource
Assessment (NCRA)

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.


Coal Quality
Coal Quality

Coal Quality

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.


Coal Databases
Coal Databases

Coal Databases

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.

 

 

Data

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: Friday, January 31, 2014

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