More than 130 Mt of Pennsylvanian coal is produced annually from two coal fields in Kentucky. The Western Kentucky Coal Field occurs in part of the Illinois Basin, an intercratonic basin, and the Eastern Kentucky Coal Field occurs in the Central Appalachian Basin, a foreland basin. The basins are only separated by 140 km, but mined western Kentucky coal beds exhibit significantly higher sulfur values than eastern Kentucky coals. Higher-sulfur coal beds in western Kentucky have generally been inferred to be caused by more marine influences than for eastern Kentucky coals. Comparison of strata in the two coal fields shows that more strata and more coal beds accumulated in the Eastern than Western Kentucky Coal Field in the Early and Middle Pennsylvanian, inferred to represent greater generation of tectonic accommodation in the foreland basin. Eastern Kentucky coal beds exhibit a greater tendency toward splitting and occurring in zones than time-equivalent western Kentucky coal beds, which is also inferred to represent foreland accommodation influences, overprinted by autogenic sedimentation effects. Western Kentucky coal beds exhibit higher sulfur values than their eastern counterparts, but western Kentucky coals occurring in Langsettian through Bolsovian strata can be low in sulfur content. Eastern Kentucky coal beds may increase in sulfur content beneath marine zones, but generally are still lower in sulfur than mined Western Kentucky coal beds, indicating that controls other than purely marine influences must have influenced coal quality. The bulk of production in the Eastern Kentucky Coal Field is from Duckmantian and Bolsovian coal beds, whereas production in the Western Kentucky Coal Field is from Westphalian D coals. Langsettian through Bolsovian paleoclimates in eastern Kentucky were favorable for peat doming, so numerous low-sulfur coals accumulated. These coals tend to occur in zones and are prone to lateral splitting because of foreland tectonic and sedimentation influences. In contrast, Westphalian D coal beds of western Kentucky accumulated during low differential tectonic accommodation, and therefore tend to be widespread and uniform in characteristics, but exhibit higher sulfur values because they accumulated in seasonally drier paleoclimates that were unfavorable for peat doming. Hence, basin analyses indicate that many differences between the mined coals of Kentucky's two coal fields are related to temporal changes in paleoclimate and tectonic accommodation, rather than solely being a function of marine influences. ?? 2002 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.
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Comparison of the Eastern and Western Kentucky coal fields (Pennsylvanian), USA-why are coal distribution patterns and sulfur contents so different in these coal fields?