This study examined the petrographic and geochemical characteristics of two lignite beds (3500 and 4500 beds, Manning Formation, Jackson Group, Eocene) that are mined at the Gibbons Creek mine in east-central Texas. The purpose of the study was to identify the relations among sample ash yield, coal petrography, and trace-element concentrations in lignite and adjoining rock layers of the Gibbons Creek mine. Particular interest was given to the distribution of 12 environmentally sensitive trace elements (As, Be, Cd, Cr, Co, Hg, Mn, Ni, Pb, Sb, Se, and U) that have been identified as potentially hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) in the United States Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990. Eleven lignite, floor, and rock parting samples were collected from incremental channel samples of the 3500 and 4500 beds that were exposed in a highwall of pit A3 at the Gibbons Creek mine. Short proximate and ultimate and forms of sulfur analyses were performed on all lignite samples, and lignite and rock samples were analyzed for 60 major, minor and trace elements. Representative splits of all lignite samples were ground and cast into pellets, and polished for petrographic analyses in blue-light fluorescence and reflected white light to determine liptinite, inertinite, and huminite maceral group percentages. The following observations summarize our results and conclusions about the geochemistry, petrography, and sedimentology of the 3500 and 4500 beds of the Gibbons Creek lignite deposit: (1) Weighted average dry (db) ash yield for the two beds is 29.7%, average total sulfur content is 2.6%, and average calorific value is 7832 Btu (18.22 MJ/kg). Ash yields are greatest in the lower bench (59.33% db) of the 3500 bed and in the upper bench of the 4500 bed (74.61% db). (2) For lignite samples (on a whole-coal basis), the distributions of two of the HAPs (Pb and Sb) are positively related to ash yield, probably indicating an inorganic affinity for these elements. By using cluster analysis we found that Be and Cd were poorly associated with ash yield, indicating a possible organic affinity, and that Ni, Se, Hg, U, and Pb cluster with most of the rare-earth elements. (3) The dominance of the crypto-eugelinite maceral subgroup over the crypto-humotelinite subgroup suggests that all Gibbons Creek lignites were subjected to peat-forming conditions (either biogenic or chemical) conducive to the degradation of wood cellular material into matrix gels, or that original plant material was not very woody and was prone to formation of matrix gels. The latter idea is supported by pollen studies of Gibbons Creek lignite beds; results indicate that the peat was derived in part from marsh plants low in wood tissue. (4) The occurrence of siliceous sponge spicules in the lower benches of the 3500 bed suggests the original peat in this part of the bed was deposited in standing, fresh water. (5) The petrographic data indicate that the upper sample interval of the 3500 bed contains more inertinite (3%) than the other samples studied. Increases in inertinite content in the upper part of the 3500 bed may have been associated with alteration of the peat by acids derived from the volcanic ash or could have been caused by fire, oxidation and drying, or biologic alteration of the peat in the paleo-mire. ?? 1997 Elsevier Science B.V.
Additional publication details
Petrography and geochemistry of selected lignite beds in the Gibbons Creek mine (Manning Formation, Jackson Group, Paleocene) of east-central Texas