Mechanisms of coal metamorphism: Case studies from Paleozoic coalfields

James C. Hower, Rodney A. Gayer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

102 Scopus citations


Controls on coal metamorphism can be complex. In this paper, we examine four Paleozoic coalfields: the western Kentucky portion of the Illinois Basin, the Pennsylvania anthracite fields, the South Wales Coalfield, and the Bowen Basin. An increase in temperature with depth of burial is certainly a factor in coal metamorphism. In many coalfields, however, including the coalfields reviewed here, it has become apparent that such a simple mechanism does not explain the coal rank patterns observed. The flow of hydrothermal fluids through the coals has been proposed as a cause of coal metamorphism. Evidence includes inverted rank gradients, elevated CFL as an indicator of brine fluids, isotopic evidence for hydrothermal fluids, and vein and cleat mineral assemblages. In any case, multiple hypotheses must often be evaluated in the examination of any coalfield since the simple paradigm of coal rank increases with a simple increase in temperature with increasing depth does not fit the evidence observed in many cases.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)215-245
Number of pages31
JournalInternational Journal of Coal Geology
Issue number1-4
StatePublished - May 2002


  • Coal metamorphism
  • Kentucky
  • Pennsylvania
  • Queensland
  • South Wales

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Fuel Technology
  • Geology
  • Economic Geology
  • Stratigraphy


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