The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), in cooperation with the Wyoming Reservoir Management Group (RMG) of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and nineteen independent coalbed methane (CBM) gas operators in the Powder River and Green River Basins in Wyoming and the Williston Basin in North Dakota, collected 963 coal samples from 37 core holes (fig. 1; table 1) between 1999 and 2005. The drilling and coring program was in response to the rapid development of CBM, particularly in the Powder River Basin (PRB), and the needs of the RMG BLM for new and more reliable data for CBM resource estimates and reservoir characterization. The USGS and BLM entered into agreements with the gas operators to drill and core Fort Union coal beds, thus supplying core samples for the USGS to analyze and provide the RMG with rapid, real-time results of total gas desorbed, coal quality, and high pressure methane adsorption isotherm data (Stricker and others, 2006).
The USGS determined the ultimate composition of all coal core samples; for selected samples analyses also included proximate analysis, calorific value, equilibrium moisture, apparent specific gravity, and forms of sulfur. Analytical procedures followed those of the American Society of Testing Materials (ASTM; 1998). In addition, samples from three wells (129 samples) were analyzed for major, minor, and trace element contents. Ultimate and proximate compositions, calorific value, and forms of sulfur are fundamental parameters in evaluating the economic value of a coal. Determining trace element concentrations, along with total sulfur and ash yield, is also essential to assess the environmental effects of coal use, as is the suitability of the coal for cleaning, gasification, liquefaction, and other treatments. Determination of coal quality in the deeper part (depths greater than 1,000 to 1,200 ft) of the PRB (Rohrbacher and others, 2006; Luppens and others, 2006) is especially important, because these coals are targeted for future mining and development.
This report contains summary tables, histograms, and isopleth maps of coal analyses. Details of the compositional internal variability of the coal beds are based on the continuous vertical sampling of coal sequences, including beds in the deeper part of the PRB. Such sampling allows for close comparisons of the compositions of different parts of coal beds as well as within the same coal beds at different core hole locations within short distances of each other.