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Evaluation of Exploration Borehole Data for Enhancing the National Coal Resources Data Systems Coal Quality Database

Funding Agency: U.S. Geological Survey
Duration: 7/01/2003-6/30/2004
Coal-quality data (both raw coal and coal washability) from borehole records collected by the Kentucky Geological Survey (KGS) are being compiled for the National Coal Resources Data System (NCRDS). NCRDS is a national coal database administered by the U.S. Geological Survey. NCRDS provides a means by which coal thickness, coal elevations, coal quality data and rock data can be entered into relational databases of KGS and the USGS for use by the public, industry, State, and Federal government. These data are critical for regional evaluations of coal resources and reserves such as those undertaken by the USGS as part of the National Coal Assessment, as well as for evaluating the use of Kentucky coals in power plants that use selective catalytic reduction (SCR) technology for reducing nitrogen, or in emerging clean coal technologies.

The NCRDS data have proven invaluable in identifying coal-quality trends on a basinwide, and in a few cases county scale. An important aspect of the present project compilation will be the evaluation of coal-quality variability using "bench architecture" concepts, which seek to subdivide individual coal beds into component parts for better understanding of quality and thickness trends within the coal as a whole. Previous studies have demonstrated that increases in ash and sulfur are often the result of merging or splitting high-ash, high-sulfur coal benches, occurring in an area that has a negative impact on the overall quality of the mined product. One significant example of the usefulness of understanding bench architecture as a means for predicting coal quality is in the Lower Elkhorn coal in Pike County. This bed was studied as part of the recently completed USGS/KGS coal assessment project. In Pike County, the Lower Elkhorn coal consists of a thick, continuous main bench of coal that is low in sulfur content. In places, the lower part of this main bench diverges to form a discreet lower split, which is also low in sulfur. Higher sulfur "rider" coal benches, however, occasionally join the main bench of coal, which elevates the total sulfur content of the mined bed at these locations. Thus, by understanding the bench architecture of the Lower Elkhorn coal in Pike County, it was possible to develop a map that indicates where higher sulfur coal is likely to occur. This example demonstrates that coal-bench architecture is a powerful tool with which to predict coal quality.

Project is ongoing.

Project is ongoing. Searchable data tables and maps of data locations will be produced.