Miocene conifer wood samples from the Belchatow brown coal deposit in Poland were studied in order to discuss a range of chemical variations that occur as a result of biochemical coalification. Petrographic analysis, ultimate analysis, electron microprobe technique, and FTIR spectroscopy were used in this study. Our data show several progressive trends in functional groups distribution that take place during the wood transformation from group 1 to group 4, such as an overall increase in aromaticity, an increase in lignin/cellulose ratio, and an increase in oxygen functionalities. Other observations include an increase in aliphatic stretching and bending functionalities from groups 1 to 3; followed by a decrease in the wood of group 4; appearance of aliphatic out-of-plane bands in group 3 and increase in group 4; an increase in CH2/CH3 in group 4 compared to the other groups; and decrease in O-H groups in group 4 compared to other groups. These observations, together with other chemical and petrological observations, indicate that the progressive elimination of cellulose and modification of lignin are dominant processes of the wood transformation. ?? 2005 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.