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Pore characteristics of Wilcox Group Coal, U.S. Gulf Coast Region: Implications for the occurrence of coalbed gas

August 13, 2014

Pore characteristics of 27 subbituminous coal samples (16 mesh splits) from the Paleocene–Eocene Wilcox Group of north Louisiana (Ouachita and Caldwell Parishes) and south Texas (Zavala County) were examined in relation to desorbed gas content. Coal gas of the Wilcox Group is primarily biogenic in origin; thermogenic gas also may be present in some areas. On an as-received basis, desorbed gas contents range from 0.59 to 1.28 m3/t for Ouachita Parish samples, 0.37 to 5.19 m3/t for the Caldwell Parish samples, and 0.02 to 0.06 m3/t for the Zavala County samples. For Louisiana coal samples, micropore surface area and volume are correlated to the desorbed gas content of the Wilcox Group coal (correlations: r = 0.50 and 0.47, respectively), suggesting that micropore surface area and volume are important in terms of gas-holding capacity. Adsorption by micropores appears to be the primary form of gas storage for the Louisiana coal samples. Micropore surface area and volumes also are strongly correlated with the carbon/ash yield ratio (r = 0.97 and 0.94, respectively), indicating that gas sorption occurs primarily on organic matter. Mineral matter appears to reduce the sorption capacity of the coal. Micropore width decreases with depth (r = − 0.63), probably as the result of increasing pressure and coal rank with depth. For the Louisiana coal samples, mesopore surface area is negatively correlated with the carbon/ash yield ratio (r = − 0.70), suggesting that mesopores are preferentially associated with mineral matter. Average mesopore size is correlated with desorbed gas (r = 0.80) for the relatively shallow Ouachita Parish samples (average depth = 441 m, 1446 ft); these results suggest that the permeability of the Wilcox coal is greater in the shallow stratigraphic intervals compared to deeper intervals. Additionally, mesopore size decreases with depth (r = − 0.80). For Ouachita Parish coal samples, negative correlations of gas with mesopore surface area (r = − 0.74) and mesopore volume (r = − 0.56) strongly suggest that gas is not adsorbed in mesopores, and that free gas may be present in larger mesopores, macropores, or fractures of the Wilcox coal. Results also suggest that moisture in Ouachita Parish samples is present in mesopores; moisture in mesopores may have blocked gas adsorption.

The low-gas south Texas samples (average depth = 313 m, 1026 ft) are markedly different from the Louisiana samples. Specifically, micropore surface area and micropore volume are negatively correlated with desorbed gas for the Texas samples (r =− 0.21 and − 0.36, respectively). Geologic or environmental conditions probably were not conducive to the generation or storage of microbial gas in the Zavala County coals. The geologic settings (i.e., salinity of formation water, groundwater recharge, permeability of coal) of each study area are important factors that need to be considered in relation to the potential for generation or storage of microbial gas. In south Texas, tectonic stress may have led to a reduction in permeability in the Wilcox Group coal, creating an unfavorable environment for the generation or preservation of microbial gas. The subbituminous rank of the Zavala coals is also too low for significant thermogenic gas generation to have occurred.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2015
Title Pore characteristics of Wilcox Group Coal, U.S. Gulf Coast Region: Implications for the occurrence of coalbed gas
DOI 10.1016/j.coal.2014.07.012
Authors Sharon M. Swanson, Maria D. Mastalerz, Mark Engle, Brett J. Valentine, Peter D. Warwick, Paul C. Hackley, Harvey E. Belkin
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title International Journal of Coal Geology
Index ID 70227643
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Eastern Energy Resources Science Center