Cleats and fractures in Pennsylvanian coals in southwestern Indiana were described, statistically analyzed, and subsequently interpreted in terms of their origin, relation to geologic lineaments, and significance for coal permeability and coalbed gas generation and storage. These cleats can be interpreted as the result of superimposed endogenic and exogenic processes. Endogenic processes are associated with coalification (i.e., matrix dehydration and shrinkage), while exogenic processes are mainly associated with larger-scale phenomena, such as tectonic stress. At least two distinct generations of cleats were identified on the basis of field reconnaissance and microscopic study: a first generation of cleats that developed early on during coalification and a second generation that cuts through the previous one at an angle that mimics the orientation of the present-day stress field. The observed parallelism between early-formed cleats and mapped lineaments suggests a well-established tectonic control during early cleat formation. Authigenic minerals filling early cleats represent the vestiges of once open hydrologic regimes. The second generation of cleats is characterized by less prominent features (i.e., smaller apertures) with a much less pronounced occurrence of authigenic mineralization. Our findings suggest a multistage development of cleats that resulted from tectonic stress regimes that changed orientation during coalification and basin evolution. The coals studied are characterized by a macrocleat distribution similar to that of well-developed coalbed methane basins (e.g., Black Warrior Basin, Alabama). Scatter plots and regression analyses of meso- and microcleats reveal a power-law distribution between spacing and cleat aperture. The same distribution was observed for fractures at microscopic scale. Our observations suggest that microcleats enhance permeability by providing additional paths for migration of gas out of the coal matrix, in addition to providing access for methanogenic bacteria. The abundance, distribution, and orientation of cleats control coal fabric and are crucial features in all stages of coalbed gas operations (i.e., exploration and production). Understanding coal fabric is important for coal gas exploration as it may be related to groundwater migration and the occurrence of methanogenic bacteria, prerequisite to biogenic gas accumulations. Likewise, the distribution of cleats in coal also determines pathways for migration and accumulation of thermogenic gas generated during coalification. ?? 2007 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
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Cleats and their relation to geologic lineaments and coalbed methane potential in Pennsylvanian coals in Indiana