A method has been developed using stable sulphur isotope analyses to monitor the behaviour of sulphur forms in a coal during thermal desulphurization. In this method, the natural stable isotopic composition of the pyritic and organic sulphur in coal is used as a tracer to follow their mobility during the desulphurization process. This tracer method is based on the fact that the isotopic compositions of pyritic and organic sulphur are significantly different in some coals. Isotopic results of pyrolysis experiments at temperatures ranging from 350 to 750 ??C indicate that the sulphur released with the volatiles is predominantly organic sulphur. The pyritic sulphur is evolved in significant quantities only when pyrolysis temperatures exceed 500 ??C. The presence of pyrite seems to have no effect on the amount of organic sulphur evolved during pyrolysis. The chemical and isotopic mass balances achieved from three different samples of the Herrin (No. 6) coal of the Illinois Basin demonstrate that this stable isotope tracer method is quantitative. The main disadvantage of this tracing technique is that not all coals contain isotopically distinct organic and pyritic sulphur. ?? 1987.