Geologic framework for the coal-bearing rocks of the Central Appalachian Basin

International Journal of Coal Geology


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Coal production has been an important economic factor in the Central Appalachian Basin. However, regional stratigraphic and structural relationships of the coal-bearing rocks of the basin have been poorly understood due to numerous separate nomenclatural schemes employed by various states. In order to estimate coal resources and understand mechanisms controlling the distribution of coal within the basin, a reliable geologic framework is necessary. Seven detailed cross sections across the Central Appalachian Basin were constructed in order to examine the stratigraphic and structural framework of the coal-bearing rocks in the basin. The cross sections were based on more than 1000 oil and gas well logs, measured sections, and borehole information from Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia. The cross sections revealed three main points discussed here: southeast thickening of the Pennsylvanian strata, unconformable northwestward onlapping relationship of Lower Pennsylvanian strata over underlying Lower Pennsylvanian and Mississippian strata and regional continuity of beds. The cross sections, geologic mapping, coal-resource studies, extensive new highway exposures and the occurrence of tonstein beds indicate that many coal beds and marine strata are laterally extensive, albeit locally variable across the basin. Certain quartzose sandstone bodies are also extensive over large areas of the basin. Existing stratigraphic nomenclature schemes obscured the geologic framework of the basin, so a new unified nomenclature scheme was devised to better describe stratigraphic features of the basin. The new stratigraphic nomenclature, now only formalized for Kentucky, was based on key stratigraphic units that proved to be extensive across the basin. Lower and Middle Pennsylvanian rocks are now recognized as the Breathitt Group (the Breathitt Formation was elevated to group rank). The Breathitt Group was subdivided into eight coal-bearing formations by relatively thick marine strata, and, in the lower part of the Breathitt Group, by quartzose sandstone formations. The new coal-bearing units are formally ranked as formations and, in ascending order, are the Pocahontas, Bottom Creek, Alvy Creek, Grundy, Pikeville, Hyden, Four Corners and Princess Formations. The quartzose sandstone units are also formally ranked as formations and are, in ascending order, the Warren Point, Sewanee, Bee Rock and Corbin Sandstones. The sandstone formations were previously recognized units in some states, but have been extended (formally in Kentucky) across the basin. The key stratigraphic marine units are formally ranked as members, and are, in ascending order, the Betsie Shale Member, the Kendrick Shale Member, Magoffin Member and Stoney Fork Member.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Geologic framework for the coal-bearing rocks of the Central Appalachian Basin
Series title International Journal of Coal Geology
Volume 31
Issue 1-4
Year Published 1996
Language English
Larger Work Type Article
Larger Work Subtype Journal Article
Larger Work Title International Journal of Coal Geology
First page 55
Last page 66