Energy Resources Program
Thursday, January 03, 2013
USGS Publication: Open-File Report 2012–1260This study updates a stratigraphic cross section published as plate 2 in Kirschbaum and Hettinger (2004) 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 Neslen Formation.
Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Outside Publication: Natural Resources Research
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. Here, we briefly review the most recent of such methods and formulate a procedure for the systematic assessment of multi-seam coal deposits taking into account several geological factors, such as fluctuations in thickness, erosion, oxidation, and bed boundaries.
Thursday, November 08, 2012
Outside Publication: International Journal of Coal Geology
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. Past studies have characterized the Blue Gem's geochemistry, palynology and petrography and inferred a depositional setting of a planar peat deposit that transitioned to slightly domed later in its development.
Thursday, September 27, 2012
USGS Publication: Open-File Report 2012–1151
The Organic Petrology Laboratory (OPL) of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Eastern Energy Resources Science Center in Reston, Virginia, contains several thousand processed coal sample materials that were loosely organized in laboratory drawers for the past several decades.
Friday, June 29, 2012
USGS Publication: Scientific Investigations Report 2011–5010
This report discusses the geologic framework and petroleum geology used to assess undiscovered petroleum resources in the Bohaiwan basin province for the 2000 World Energy Assessment Project of the U.S. Geological Survey. The Bohaiwan basin in northeastern China is the largest petroleum-producing region in China.
Tuesday, June 19, 2012
Technical Announcement & Publication
Land and resource managers now have a comprehensive new map of coal and wind energy resources information for southwestern Wyoming. This map has been released by the U.S. Geological Survey and the Wyoming State Geological Survey, as Part A of a two part energy map and data series.
Sunday, January 22, 2012
USGS Publication: Open-File Report 2011–1261
Coal exploration drill-hole data from over 24,000 wells in 10 States are discussed by State in the chapters of this report, and the data are provided in an accompanying spreadsheet.
Tuesday, January 10, 2012
Outside Publication: AAPG Discovery Series
For eight years (1995-2003), geologic, geochemical, and resource information was collected and compiled for the five major coal-producing regions of the United States: the Appalachian Basin, Illinois Basin, Northern Rocky Mountains and Great Plains, Colorado Plateau, and the western part of the Gulf of Mexico Coastal Plain (Gulf Coast) region. This volume contains the assessment results for the Gulf of Mexico Coastal Plain region.
USGS Publication: Open-File Report 2011–1296This Open-File Report contains downloadable shapefiles representing the coalfields of India and Bangladesh and a limited number of chemical and petrographic analyses of India and Bangladesh coal samples.
The coal industry in the United States has undergone fundamental changes over the past several years that have resulted in a reduction in the number of operating coal mines, the merging or consolidation of numerous coal companies, and a drastic decrease in coal production. Since 2008, when a record of more than 1.17 billion short tons of coal were produced in the U.S., annual coal production volumes have dropped precipitously. In 2016, approximately 739 million short tons of coal were produced, according to figures released by the Energy Information Agency (EIA) and Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA). This represents nearly a 37 percent reduction in annual production from the nation’s coal mines. Despite this reduction in the number of operating coal mines and the corresponding drop in annual production, the EIA projects that coal will continue to provide fuel to generate approximately 30 percent of the electricity used in the U.S. The generation of electricity accounts for the consumption of approximately 92.5 percent of coal mined in the U.S. The use of coal to produce coke for steel making, as well as other industrial, commercial, and institutional uses, accounts for the remainder of U.S. coal consumption.
There are numerous coal beds, of varying thickness, extent, and quality, in coal fields and basins spread throughout the U. S. - these compose the total coal resources of the nation. However, not all of the total coal resources can be extracted. The portion of the total coal resources that may be able to be extracted are defined as recoverable coal resources. Recoverable coal resources are calculated by subtracting coal resources lost due to previous mining activities, exposure to weathering along outcrops, geological conditions, environmental, land use, or societal restrictions, and mining technology limitations from the total coal resources.
Reserves are the portion of the recoverable coal resources that can be extracted economically at a time of classification. The portion of recoverable coal resources that can be defined as reserves will vary over time, based on fluctuations in mining costs and the market value of the coal.
In energy assessments, it is important to estimate not only the total coal resources, but to inventory the recoverable coal resources and coal reserves as well. Estimating the available coal resources and reserves provides a more accurate appraisal of how much of the total U.S. coal resources are realistically available for extraction in the future.
There is often confusion in the use of the terms coal “resources” and “reserves”. The two terms are often used interchangeably, but there are significant differences in their definitions. The terms are defined, from USGS Circular 891, as follows:
Coal resources – include in-place tonnage estimates that are determined by summing the volumes for identified and undiscovered coal deposits, utilizing a specified minimum thickness.
Coal reserves – are a subset of coal resources that are classified as economically extractable at the time of classification, after considering environmental, legal, and technological constraints. The facilities for extraction do not need to be in place or operative at the time of classification.
In order to be classified as economically extractable, the current market value of the extracted coal must be greater than the total cost to extract it.
The task of the U.S. Coal Resources and Reserves Assessment Project is to conduct a systematic determination of recoverable coal resources and reserves, on a regional basis for all major coal provinces in the United States. This differentiates the current coal assessment project from previous generations of coal assessment projects, in which typically only total coal resources were calculated.
The Project is focused on defining coal resources and reserves in the Northern Great Plains and Rocky Mountain Coal Provinces, with an emphasis on determining coal resources and reserves on Federal lands. The first U.S. coal basin to be evaluated was the Powder River Basin (PRB) in Wyoming and Montana, because it has been the most productive coal basin in the United States over the past 25 years. The results of the PRB assessment were published in Professional Paper 1809 in 2015.
Currently, assessment studies in three separate areas of the Greater Green River Basin are in progress – Little Snake River coal field and Red Desert area (WY), Yampa coal field (CO), and Rock Springs Uplift coal field (WY). The Greater Green River Basin was prioritized for assessment because it contains vast land areas controlled by the Federal government, large portions of the basin have not been formally assessed for coal resources, and previously proprietary drill hole data have become available for use in geologic modeling and economic evaluations.
Areas under consideration for assessment are the Raton Basin and Piceance Basin in the Rocky Mountain Province and the Williston Basin in the Northern Great Plains Province. Also under consideration, in order to assess remaining thermal coal supplies that may be available for extraction for electrical generation, are the Illinois Basin, Northern Appalachian Basin, and Gulf Coast/Texas lignite region.
As part of the USGS Energy Resources Program, the U.S. Coal Resources and Reserves Assessment Project research efforts yield state-of-the art, digitally-based assessments that detail the quantity, quality, location, and accessibility of the Nation’s coal resources and reserves.
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The Greater Green River Basin (GGRB) is a large, irregularly shaped, intermontane desert basin in the Rocky Mountain coal region. The basin is located in southwestern and south-central Wyoming and northwestern Colorado. The GGRB contains several coal fields of economic importance. There are several active coal mines in the basin, utilizing both surface and underground mining methods. The structural geology is relatively complex, with intra-basin anticlinal features dividing the GGRB into several sub-basins. The coal beds in the GGRB were deposited in fluvial/deltaic and lacustrine paleoenvironments and are Late Cretaceous, Paleocene, and Eocene in Age.[+]
Because of its areal extent, the Greater Green River Basin has been divided into three separate assessments – Little Snake River coal field and Red Desert area (WY), Yampa coal field (CO), and Rock Springs Uplift coal field (WY). The Greater Green River Basin was prioritized for assessment because it contains vast land areas controlled by the Federal government, large portions of the basin have not been formally assessed for coal resources, and previously proprietary drill hole data have become available for use in geologic modeling and economic evaluations.
The coal resources and reserves assessment of the GGRB is part of the current generation of U.S. coal assessments that not only define the total coal resources, but also systematically determine the available coal resources and reserves for a region or basin. The determination of available coal resources show what coal may be available for extraction after environmental, land use, and technological restrictions are applied to the total coal resources. The determination of reserves from the available coal resources shows what coal is currently available to be economically extracted, based on market conditions and projected mining costs. Determining available coal resources and reserves are important factors to be considered in the development of a national energy policy and for providing energy security for the United States.
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.
USGS Professional Paper 1809, Coal Geology and Assessment of Coal Resources and Reserves in the Powder River Basin, Wyoming and Montana, was published in 2015. It is the compilation of four USGS Open File Reports into a single publication, covering four different assessment areas in the PRB. Professional Paper 1809 provides an overview of the geology and reports the original resources for the entire PRB, as well as the available coal resources and reserves.
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
Vitrinite reflectance variations in Paleocene-Eocene coals of the Powder River, Williston, Hanna, Bighorn, and Bull Mountain basins, U.S.A. [extended abstract]:
Abstract [.pdf] [5.91 MB] l Associated Data [.xlsx] [1.65 MB]
USGS Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) Pertaining to "Coal"
NCRDS State Cooperators
ASTM Committee D05 on Coal and Coke
U.S. Department of Energy Clean Coal Initiative
U.S. Energy Information Administration
International Committee for Coal & Organic Petrology (ICCP)
The Society for Organic Petrology (TSOP)
Page Last Modified: Friday, October 13, 2017