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Bulletin Article


The influence of moisture, temperature, coal rank, and differential enthalpy on the methane (CH4) and carbon dioxide (CO2) sorption capacity of coals of different rank has been investigated by using high-pressure sorption isotherms at 303, 318, and 333 K (CH4) and 318, 333, and 348 K (CO2), respectively. The variation of sorption capacity was studied as a function of burial depth of coal seams using the corresponding Langmuir parameters in combination with a geothermal gradient of 0.03 K/m and a normal hydrostatic pressure gradient. Taking the gas content corresponding to 100% gas saturation at maximum burial depth as a reference value, the theoretical CH4 saturation after the uplift of the coal seam was computed as a function of depth. According to these calculations, the change in sorption capacity caused by changing pressure, temperature conditions during uplift will lead consistently to high saturation values. Therefore, the commonly observed undersaturation of coal seams is most likely related to dismigration (losses into adjacent formations and atmosphere). Finally, we attempt to identify sweet spots for CO2-enhanced coalbed methane (CO2-ECBM) production. The CO2-ECBM is expected to become less effective with increasing depth because the CO2-to-CH4 sorption capacity ratio decreases with increasing temperature and pressure. Furthermore, CO2-ECBM efficiency will decrease with increasing maturity because of the highest sorption capacity ratio and affinity difference between CO2 and CH4 for low mature coals.

Predicting the presence and connectivity of reservoir-quality facies in otherwise mud-prone fluvial overbank successions is important because such sand bodies can potentially provide connectivity between larger neighboring sand bodies. This article addresses minor channelized fluvial elements (crevasse-splay and distributary channels) and attempts to predict the connectivity between such sand bodies in two interseam packages of the Upper Permian Rangal Coal Measures of northeastern Australia. Channel-body percent as measured in well logs was 2% in the upper (Aries-Castor) interseam and 17% in the lower (Castor-Pollux) interseam. Well spacing were too great to allow accurate correlation of channel bodies. The Ob River, Siberia, was used as a modern analog to supply planform geometric measurements of splay and distributary channels so that stochastic modeling of channel bodies was possible. The resulting models demonstrated that (1) channel-body connectivity is more uniform between minor distributary channels than between crevasse-splay channels; (2) relatively good connectivity is seen in proximal positions in splays but decreases distally from the source as channel elements diverge; and (3) connectivity tends to be greater down the axis of splays, with more isolated channel bodies occurring at the margins.

Sequence stratigraphy and coal cycles based on accommodation trends were investigated in the coal-bearing Lower Cretaceous Mannville Group in the Lloydminster heavy oil field, eastern Alberta. The study area is in a low accommodation setting on the cratonic margin of the Western Canada sedimentary basin. Geophysical log correlation of coal seams, shoreface facies, and the identification of incised valleys has produced a sequence-stratigraphic framework for petrographic data from 3 cored and 115 geophysical-logged wells. Maceral analysis, telovitrinite reflectance, and fluorescence measurements were taken from a total of 206 samples. Three terrestrial depositional environments were interpreted from the petrographic data: ombrotrophic mire coal, limnotelmatic mire coal, and carbonaceous shale horizons. Accommodation-based coal (wetting- and drying-upward) cycles represent trends in depositional environment shifts, and these cycles were used to investigate the development and preservation of the coal seams across the study area.

The low-accommodation strata are characterized by a high-frequency occurrence of significant surfaces, coal seam splitting, paleosol, and incised-valley development. Three sequence boundary unconformities are identified in only 20 m (66 ft) of strata. Coal cycle correlations illustrate that each coal seam in this study area was not produced by a single peat-accumulation episode but as an amalgamation of a series of depositional events. Complex relations between the Cummings and Lloydminster coal seams are caused by the lateral fragmentation of strata resulting from the removal of sediment by subaerial erosion or periods of nondeposition. Syndepositional faulting of the underlying basement rock changed local accommodation space and increased the complexity of the coal cycle development.

This study represents a low-accommodation example from a spectrum of stratigraphic studies that have been used to establish a terrestrial sequence-stratigraphic model. The frequency of changes in coal seam quality is an important control on methane distribution within coalbed methane reservoirs and resource calculations in coal mining. A depositional model based on the coal cycle correlations, as shown by this study, can provide coal quality prediction for coalbed methane exploration, reservoir completions, and coal mining.

Explorer Article


The rest of the story? High expectations dominate current outlooks for U.S. energy independence, but a past AAPG president warns against overenthusiasm on shale capacity.

Explorer Division Column EMD


Every six months, chairs of the Energy Minerals Division committees convene and report on developments in the areas they cover. In this column, we highlight important observations from these recent reports.


The AAPG Energy Minerals Division covers many scientific disciplines and interests – and because previous EXPLORER articles featured shale gas and oil shale, this quarter will focus on highlights from this year’s EMD November Mid-Year Meeting Commodity Reports.

Explorer Geophysical Corner


Starting in the 1980s people began to see that an efficient way to answer this question was to acquire both P-wave and S-wave seismic data across a rock/fluid system that had to be interpreted.

Explorer Historical Highlight


Great Britain in the late 18th and early 19th centuries was undergoing great change. The Industrial Revolution was in full flood and there was an insatiable desire for coal to turn the wheels of industry.


When New York began its first state geological survey in 1836, seep petroleum was used in small quantities primarily for medicinal purposes.

Explorer Spotlight On…


Lee Allison, the state geologist and director of the Arizona Geological Survey, knows a lot about the coming need for strategic investment in data integration – and about how to succeed in today's political climate.

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