Chemical and thermoplastic properties of coals in the Ferron coalbed methane fairway indicate that coals in the north are of higher rank than coals in the south. Measured vitrinite reflectance does not accurately show this variation of coal rank. Although vitrinite reflectance in the southern and central part of the fairway is consistent with other measures of coal rank, suppressed vitrinite reflectance is observed in the north where methane contents are relatively high. This coincidence of suppressed reflectance and relatively high coalbed methane yields may be significant. We speculate that the suppressed reflectance values result from a burial history where overpressure developed during the early stages of coalification and persisted until recent uplift and cooling; such instances may be diagnostic of prospective coalbed methane targets elsewhere. ?? 2003 Published by Elsevier B.V.