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Eocene bituminous coal deposits of the Claiborne group, Webb County, Texas

January 1, 2011

Two bituminous coal zones, the San Pedro and the Santo Tomas, in the middle Eocene Claiborne Group of Webb County, south Texas (Figure 1), are among the coal resources that are not evaluated quantitatively as part of the current Gulf Coastal Plain coal resource assessment. Coal beds within these zones were mined by underground methods northwest of Laredo until 1939 and have been intermittently mined at the surface since 1979. These coals have long been regarded as unique within the Gulf Coast Tertiary coal-bearing section because they are high-volatile C bituminous in rank and because their physical characteristics resemble upper Carboniferous cannel coals of the Appalachians and Europe.

Discontinuous exposures of the Santo Tomas and the underlying San Pedro coal zone extend northwestward from Dolores for approximately 15 to 21 mi along the breaks of the Rio Grande and its tributaries in Webb County (Figure 1). This part of south Texas lies along the southwestern flank of the Rio Grande Embayment, which extends south and southeastwardly through the Mexican States of Coahuila, Nuevo León, and Tamaulipas (Figure 1). Within the embayment, the lower to middle part of the Claiborne Group consists of marine mudstones (Reklaw Formation) in the east and northeast and sandstones and mudstones (Bigford Formation) in the south and southwest (Figure 2). The marine mudstones coarsen upward into fluvial-deltaic sandstones (Queen City Sand) that prograded gulfward across eastern and central Texas (Guevara and Garcia, 1972). To the west and southwest, the interval overlying the Bigford Formation becomes less sandy, and claystones (El Pico Clay) predominate. Although the San Pedro coal zone has been placed traditionally near the top of the Bigford Formation and the Santo Tomas coal zone near the base of the El Pico Clay, recent work has failed to validate a mappable contact between these formations (Warwick and Hook, 1995). The coal beds dip northeast at less than 2 degrees towards the synclinal axis of the basin.

The following summary is based upon published and unpublished reports; drillhole records (geophysical logs, descriptions of cores and cuttings); coal-quality data obtained from the permit files of the Railroad Commission of Texas and recent sampling by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS); a preliminary review of proprietary data acquired recently by the USGS; and field work conducted by the USGS since 1994. A total of approximately 200 drillhole records was examined.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2011
Title Eocene bituminous coal deposits of the Claiborne group, Webb County, Texas
Authors Robert W. Hook, Peter D. Warwick
Publication Type Book Chapter
Publication Subtype Book Chapter
Series Title AAPG Studies in Geology
Index ID 70192698
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Eastern Energy Resources Science Center