Experimental coalification of a peat sample and a buried wood sample from domed peat deposits in Indonesia was carried out to examine chemical structural changes in organic matter during early-stage coalification. The experiment (125 C, 408 atm lithostatic pressure, and 177 atm fluid pressure for 75 days) was designed to maintain both lithostatic and fluid pressure on the sample, but allow by-products that may retard coalification to escape. We refer to this design as a geologically open system. Changes in the elemental composition, and 13C NMR and FTIR spectra of the peat and wood after experimental coalification suggest preferential thermal decomposition of O-containing aliphatic organic compounds (probably cellulose) during early-stage coalification. The elemental compositions and 13C NMR spectra of the experimentally coalified peat and wood were generally similar to those of Miocene coal and coalified wood samples from Indonesia. Yields of lignin phenols in the peat and wood samples decreased following experimental coalification; the wood sample exhibited a larger change. Lignin phenol yields from the experimentally coalified peat and wood were comparable to yields of lignin phenols from Miocene Indonesian lignite and coalified wood. Changes in syringyl/vanillyl and p-hydroxy/vanillyl ratios suggest direct demethoxylation as a secondary process to demethylation of methoxyl groups during early coalification, and changes in lignin phenol yields and acid/aldehyde ratios point to a coupling between demethoxylation processes and reactions in the alkyl side chain bonds of the ??-carbon in lignin phenols.
Additional publication details
Experimental early-stage coalification of a peat sample and a peatified wood sample from Indonesia