The US Geological Survey (USGS) is completing a national assessment of coal resources in the five top coal-producing regions in the US. Point-located data provide measurements on coal thickness and sulfur content. The sample data and their geologic interpretation represent the most regionally complete and up-to-date assessment of what is known about top-producing US coal beds. The sample data are analyzed using a combination of geologic and Geographic Information System (GIS) models to estimate tonnages and qualities of the coal beds. Traditionally, GIS practitioners use contouring to represent geographical patterns of "similar" data values. The tonnage and grade of coal resources are then assessed by using the contour lines as references for interpolation. An assessment taken to this point is only indicative of resource quantity and quality. Data users may benefit from a statistical approach that would allow them to better understand the uncertainty and limitations of the sample data. To develop a quantitative approach, geostatistics were applied to the data on coal sulfur content from samples taken in the Pittsburgh coal bed (located in the eastern US, in the southwestern part of the state of Pennsylvania, and in adjoining areas in the states of Ohio and West Virginia). Geostatistical methods that account for regional and local trends were applied to blocks 2.7 mi (4.3 km) on a side. The data and geostatistics support conclusions concerning the average sulfur content and its degree of reliability at regional- and economic-block scale over the large, contiguous part of the Pittsburgh outcrop, but not to a mine scale. To validate the method, a comparison was made with the sulfur contents in sample data taken from 53 coal mines located in the study area. The comparison showed a high degree of similarity between the sulfur content in the mine samples and the sulfur content represented by the geostatistically derived contours. Published by Elsevier Science B.V.
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A geostatistical approach to predicting sulfur content in the Pittsburgh coal bed