Lateral variation in geochemistry, petrology, and palynology in the Elswick coal bed, Pike County, Kentucky

James C. Hower, Leslie F. Ruppert, Cortland F. Eble

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


The Middle Pennsylvanian/Langsettian (Westphalian A) Elswick coal bed, correlative to the Upper Banner of Virginia, is a rare example of a mined high-sulfur (> 2%) coal in Eastern Kentucky, a region known for low-sulfur coals. To characterize lateral variation in the geochemistry, petrography, and palynology of the Elswick coal bed, three sites were sampled along a southeast-northwest transect within a single mine. At the southeastern site, the lower 101 cm of the 116-cm thick coal is dull, generally dominated by durain and dull clarain. While all benches at this site fit within the previously-defined "mixed palynoflora - moderate/low vitrinite group," suggesting a stressed environment of deposition, the palynology of the benches of the dull interval show greater diversity than might be expected just from the petrology. Lithology is generally similar between the sites, but each site has some differences in the petrology. Overall, the coal bed shows significant lateral variation in properties at the mine scale, some of which can be attributed to the gain or loss of upper and lower lithologies, either through an actual physical merging or through the change in character of lithotypes. Sulfur content varies between the three sites examined for this study. Site 3, located in the northwestern portion of the study area is characterized by a strikingly high sulfur zone (7.45%) in the middle of the coal bed, a feature missing at the other sites. Pyrite and marcasite, in a mid-seam lithotype at the northwestern site (site 3), show signs of overgrowths, indicating multiple generations of sulfide emplacement. The high-sulfur site 3 lithologies all have massive overgrowths of euhedral and framboidal pyrite, fracture- and cleat-fill pyrite, and sulfide emplacement in fusinite lumens. Sulfur is high throughout the mine area, but variations are evident in the extent of secondary growth of sulfides.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)165-178
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of Coal Geology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 1 2007


  • Coal
  • Geochemistry
  • Kentucky
  • Palynology
  • Petrology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Fuel Technology
  • Geology
  • Economic Geology
  • Stratigraphy


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