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Alaska coal geology, resources, and coalbed methane potential

July 1, 2004

Estimated Alaska coal resources are largely in Cretaceous and Tertiary rocks distributed in three major provinces. Northern Alaska-Slope, Central Alaska-Nenana, and Southern Alaska-Cook Inlet. Cretaceous resources, predominantly bituminous coal and lignite, are in the Northern Alaska-Slope coal province. Most of the Tertiary resources, mainly lignite to subbituminous coal with minor amounts of bituminous and semianthracite coals, are in the other two provinces. The combined measured, indicated, inferred, and hypothetical coal resources in the three areas are estimated to be 5,526 billion short tons (5,012 billion metric tons), which constitutes about 87 percent of Alaska's coal and surpasses the total coal resources of the conterminous United States by 40 percent.

Coal mining has been intermittent in the Central Alaskan-Nenana and Southern Alaska-Cook Inlet coal provinces, with only a small fraction of the identified coal resource having been produced from some dozen underground and strip mines in these two provinces. Alaskan coal resources have a lower sulfur content (averaging 0.3 percent) than most coals in the conterminous United States are within or below the minimum sulfur value mandated by the 1990 Clean Air Act amendments. The identified resources are near existing and planned infrastructure to promote development, transportation, and marketing of this low-sulfur coal. The relatively short distances to countries in the west Pacific Rim make them more exportable to these countries than to the lower 48 States of the United States.

Another untapped but potential resource of large magnitude is coalbed methane, which has been estimated to total 1,000 trillion cubic feet (28 trillion cubic meters) by T.N. Smith 1995, Coalbed methane potential for Alaska and drilling results for the upper Cook Inlet Basin: Intergas, May 15 - 19, 1995, Tuscaloosa, University of Alabama, p. 1 - 21.

Publication Year 2004
Title Alaska coal geology, resources, and coalbed methane potential
DOI 10.3133/ds77
Authors Romeo M. Flores, Gary D. Stricker, Scott A. Kinney
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Data Series
Series Number 77
Index ID ds77
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse