This report is intended to meet the many requests for information on current U.S. Geological Survey procedures in handling coal samples.
In general, the exact type and number of samples of coal and associated rock to be collected are left to the best judgment of the geologist. Samples should be of unweathered coal or rock and representative of the bed or beds sampled; it is recommended that two channel samples, separated by 10 to 100 yards (10 to 100 metres) and weighing 4 to 5 pounds ( 1.8 to 2.3 kilograms) each, be collected of each 5 feet ( 1.5 metres) of vertical section. Care must be taken to avoid any sample contamination, and to record the exact locality, thickness, and stratigraphic information for each sample.
Analytical methods are described for the determination of major, minor, and trace elements in coal. Hg, As, Sb, F, Se, U, and Th are determined in the raw coal, and the following 34 elements are determined after ashing the coal: Si, Al, Ca, Mg, Na, K, Fe (total), Cl, Ti, Mn, P, S (total), Cd, Li, Cu, Zn, Pb, B, Ba, Be, Co, Cr, Ga, La, Mo, Nb, Ni, Sc, Sr, Ti, V, Y, Yb, and Zr. The methods used to determine these elements include atomic absorption spectroscopy, X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy, optical emission spectroscopy, spectrophotometry, selective-ion electrode, and neutron activation analysis. A split of representative coal samples is submitted to the U.S. Bureau of Mines for proximate, ultimate, forms of sulfur, and Btu determinations.