Petrology and palynology of the No. 5 block coal bed, northeastern Kentucky

James C. Hower, Cortland F. Eble, Robert F. Rathbone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


The upper Middle Pennsylvanian (middle Westphalian D equivalent) No. 5 Block coal bed (Eastern Kentucky Coal Field of the Central Appalachian Basin) is a low-sulfur, compliance coal resource, dominantly comprised of dull, inertinite-rich lithotypes. Ash yields tend to be highly variable in the No. 5 Block, as does bed thickness and frequency of bed splitting. This study describes the petrographic, palynologic and geochemical characteristics of the No. 5 Block coal bed, and reports on some temporal and spatial trends among these parameters in eastern-northeastern Kentucky. Petrographically the No. 5 Block coal is predominated by dull, often high-ash lithotypes, with inertinite contents commonly exceeding 30% (mmf). The coal thins to the north-northwest where it tends to be higher in vitrinite and sulfur content. Representatives of large and small lycopsids and ferns (both tree-like and small varieties) dominate the No. 5 Block coal bed palynoflora. Calamite spores and cordaite pollen also occur but are less abundant. Small lycopsid (Densosporites spp. and related crassicingulate genera) and tree fern (e.g. Punctatisporites minutus, Laevigatosporites globosus) spore taxa are most abundant in dull lithotypes. Bright lithotypes contain higher percentages of arboreous lycopsid spores (Lycospora spp.). Regionally, the No. 5 Block coal contains abundant Torispora securis, a tree fern spore specially adapted for desiccation prevention. This, along with overall high percentages of inertinite macerals, suggest that peat accumulation may have taken place in a seasonally dry (?) paleoclimate. The No. 5 Block coal bed thickens rather dramatically in a NW-SE direction, as does the frequency of coal bed splitting. This phenomenon appears to be related to increased accomodation space in the southeastern portion of the study area, perhaps via penecontemporaneous growth faulting. Maceral and palynomorph variations within the bed correspond with these changes. Thin coal along the northwestern margin tends to be vetrinite rich and contains abundant Lycospora, perhaps reflecting relatively stable peat-forming conditions. Thicker coal to the southeast contains more inertinite, high-ash coal layers, and inorganic partings. Spore floras contain more small lycopsid and tree fern components and are temporally variable, perhaps indicating a more unstable peat-forming environment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)171-193
Number of pages23
JournalInternational Journal of Coal Geology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1994

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Fuel Technology
  • Geology
  • Economic Geology
  • Stratigraphy


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