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SEDIMENTATION: AN APPROPRIATE FIELD OF RESEARCH

IN THE NATURAL HISTORY OF COAL BEDS. •

E. C. DAPPLES.

ABSTRACT.

Potential studies in the accumulationof coal-bearing strata as being
important in further understandingthe natural history of coal are dis-
cussed. These lines of approachinclude regional isopachstudiesof the
stratigraphic unit containing coals, and the individual coal beds; bulk
petrographic and lithofacies studiesof the non-coal strata; biofacies and
ecologicstudies;and, tectonismduring the depositionof the sedimentary
units concerned.

INTRODUCTION.

INV•STmATXONS bearinguponthe geologichistoryof coalshowdistinctcleav-
agesin subjectgroupingsuchthat they are readilyorganizedunderfour ma-
jor regimes. Thesecanbe identifiedas (1) coalbotany,(2) coalchemistry,
(3) coal petrography,and (4) coal stratigraphy. With the exceptionof
coal stratigraphythesefieldsof researchare sufficientlyspecializedso that
they remainperipheralto the training and experienceOf all but a few pro-
fessionalgeologists.Moreover, knowledgewithin these realms has been
extendedbeyondthe limits where the geologistcan contributesubstantially.
Almostpreciselythe oppositecan be said aboutcoal stratigraphy,and its as-
sociatedfield of coal sedimentology, which offer much to be investigatedby
the geologist. This is particularlytrue in view of the contributionto be made
by an increased understanding of the petrologyof the rockswith whichcoal
is associated. Indeed, if we are to know more about the natural history of
coalwe must first learn m6re concerningthe broadframeworkin which the
coal bearing beds occur; and, the petrographicrelationshipbetweenthe
strataof the "coalmeasures"and thoseof their time-stratigraphic equivalents
in non-coalareas. Within the generalizedframework detailed studiesof
local coal occurrences can be appraisedin their proper magnitude. With
the viewpointin mind of arousinginterestin studiesin coal sedimentati. on,
I plan to review somelinesof importantresearchwhich only the geologist
canpursue;and whichestablishthe positionof coalas a lithologynarrowly
definedby certainalepositional conditions.
ISOPACH STUDIES.

The frameworkwithin whichareal stud{esmust be placed{s the {sopach
map. With {ew exceptions(10) • deta{Ied{sopachmapsof large areasof
selected
time-stratigraphic
unitsare absent{n the publishedaccountso[ coal
3.Presentedbefore the Societyof EconomicGeologists,Committeeon Coal Research,No- .
vember, 1948.
z Numbers in parenthesesrefer to Bibliography at end of paper.
598

The coal bearing areascan be distinguished by suitablecolorsor patternsfrom areas where other continentalor marine sedimentsaccumulated.(d) thepositionof the coalbearing stratawith respectto possiblesourcesof the sediments. The numberof suchcoincidencesis so largethat a strongprobabilityexiststhat cyclicalsedi- NON-GLASTI(•S I- --o--I SAND 8 2 I • •/s SHALE SAND-SHALE RATIO FI•. The result is a clearly visiblerepresentationof (a) the areasof coal accumulation.displaythe structural conditionsprevailingduring the interval of deposition. •Totc how these are definedby elastic ratio and sand-shale ratio limits. 9) have demonstrated the pronounced association of coalswith other strata in cyclicalrepetition. 1.which shouldincludeboth the coal bearing strata and their stratigraphicequivalentselsewhere.(b) the shape of the basinsof depositionand their areal distribution. 599 bearingregions. Suchmaps. LITHOFACIES STUDIES.In this connection additionalinformationis neededconcerningthe variations and the causesof this cyclicalsedimentation. (After Krumbein. SEDIMENTATION. Lithofacies triangle showing by pattern differences nine gross ]itho]ogictypes. (c) the structural frameworkexistentduringcoaldeposition. The investigationsof •Vanless(8.The very excellentwork of .) mentationmusthavea directbearinguponlargescalecoalaccumulation.

respectively.and. BULK PETROGRAPHIC STUDIES. Areas'repre- sentativeof theselithologiescan be similarly shown on maps. .and shale.nomclastics(other than coal). DAPPLE.and. Areas of rapid lithofacieschangesbecomeap- parent and their significancecan be examinedfrom the viewpoint of the rate of total deposition. the requirements of stratigraphiccorrelation are not so exacting. Krumbein (3) has deviseda methodof assigningnumericalvaluesto selectedlithologies. Such tetrahedronscan be effectivelyemployedin quantify- ing thebulkpetrographic propertiesof thecoalbearingbedsandin establishing the similaritiesbetweencyclothems. This is a valuesuitablefor plottingon a map. is dividedby the total non-clastics.the cornersof whichrepresent. However. RecentlyKrynine (5) hasdemonstrated the valueof plottingsedimentary lithologiesin terms of end membersrepresentedby the cornersof a tetra- hedron.types. Obviouslythis rangein cyclicaltypescreates problemsin stratigraphiccorrelation. Similarly the sand-shaleratio can be determinedand a secondgroup of contoursdrawn. sandstone. Figure 1 is a trianglein which intervalsof clasticratio and sand-shaleratio have been selectedto representnine types of grosslithology. a ratio results(the clasticratio). This methodemploysan equilateraltriangle. Note the changes in plottedpositionson the triangle for the membersof a typical cyclothemof westernIllinois.600 E. contoursmay be drawn throughpoints of equal clasticratio.5'.and limestonehavepronounced affinitiesand are mutuallyex- 8 Prof. TECTONIC CONTROL STUDIES. Krumbeinhaskindlypermittedthe authorto usethis illustrationprior to its appear- ance under his name.or well log.thickness. Certain attributes can be plottedgraphicallyand are suitablefor contouringon a map. Maps of suchattributeswill doubtlessshow interesting and illuminatingrelationshipsbetweenthe amount and type of clasticsand the accumulation of humic matter. tl•e lateral variationsin lithologybecomesubjectto statisticalinterpretation. Evidence{s accumulatingrapidly that many commonlyoccurringtypesof sandstone. If for any selectedstratigraphicinterval the thicknessof total clasticsin any meas- ured outcropsection. From such maps regionalchangesin lithofaciesof groupsof cyclothemsare subjectto analysisand interpretation. For examplecoal can be placedin the non-clasticsapex and a clastics-coal ratio be prepared. Wanless(10) indicatesthe rangeof typicalcyclesin Pennsylvanian bedsin the Appalachiancoal fields. Figure 2 preparedby Krumbein (4). and ranks of coal. Trianglesof statisticallithologiescan be made usingother end members. if severalindividualcycles are groupedtogetherinto a singlestratigraphicunit. shale. 8 is an experimentalplot of a typical westernIllinois cyclothemwith the humic end membersof the tetra- bedtonpointedtoward the observer(the percentageof humicmatter is indi- catedby the sizeof the smalltriangleat the plottedpoint). C.and consequently the re-construction of the depositionalhistory is confused.

Unit 5.ageof humic matter present in each unit. Suchan outlookbaseduponthe tectonics posesa question. the coal. andstable areasexistentduringsuchtimes? Herein liesa fertilefieldfor petrographic interpretation of the typebeingpioneered by Krynine (5). Somewhere in this framework conditionsfavorablefor the' accumulationand preservation I0 Shall 9 L •mostonc • Rk. How are coal forminglocalitiesdistributed with respect to largepositive. The size of the small triangles indicatesthe percent. Investigations of this typeshouldleadto the establishmentof criteriafor recognizingthe then existentshore lines. sourceareasof sediments.Strata associated with coal are shelftypesand appearto be of the mildly unstableshelfwhere tectonic conditions alternate between stable and unstable conditions. (After Krumbein.the tectonicconditionof the deposi- tional areasappearsto be a prime factor in controllingthe sedimentarytype. Table 1 (1) is a tabulationof theseassociations. Face of end-membertetrahedron showing variation in constituentsof units of a typical cyclothemof the Pennsylvanianof western Illinois. Limo S Slit Gloy FIG.Moreover.negative. is not shown since it would constitutethe dimensionsof the large triangle. 2. SEDIMENTATION. and muchdetailedpetrographicwork remainsto be doneto evaluateand fully comprehend the significance of this control.types of coal depositedin .W. Shale 1' Limostoni 6 Shale 5 Goal 4 Undercloy $ r. 601 clusivelo other associations.) of vegetationmake their appearance.

Data are neededon the ecologiccommunitiesas indicatedby the fossilassemblages and the associatedpetrographyof the rocksin which they are entombed. Foraminiferal •uartz-muscovite quartz common in silt Secondary chert and Stable shelf dolomite Random reef distribu. sill.and concentrations of coal material in thick continuousbedsas againstthin bedsof sporadicdistribution. any Thickened shelf types Intracra. car.An understanding of the more complexvariationsin depositionof units of mostof the coal cyclothem will in turn provideus with a muchclearerinsightof the physicallimitations of coal deposition. bedding unstable "Blanket" arkose bonaceous. any Normal marine •uartz-glauconite colors. siliceous. et cetera Depositional area Source area Pure quartz Chiefly claystones. dolomites. SUMMARY OF LITHOLOGIC ASSOCIATIONS. Geosyn. any Thick. Observed sedimentary associations Inferred tectonic framework Ciastics Non-elastics Sandstones Shales Limestones. An exampleof the approachis the work of Elias (2) who usedthe floral and faunal relationshipsto establishdepthof water zonesin which strata of the Big Blue seriesaccumulated. . micaceous. with uneven Mildly feldspar colors. epeirogeni• bonaceous. F. Much remainsto be investigated concerningthe depthsof water and ele- vationsaboveand belowsealevel during the accumulation of the coalbearing strata. any Nodular. chocolate. car. large variety of minerals areas of particular tectonism. TABLE 1. COLOGIC STUDIES. Evaporites (primary tonic basin strongly careous.feldsparmay Dense.glau. pyritic. micaceous. dark. sulphates. Nodular limestones Strongly micaceous Special evaporite se. carbo- naceous. DAPPLES. calcareous. siliceous cline orogenic ceous. chloritic. Stable to tion mildly epeirogeni• •uartz-potash Chiefly siltstones. C. dense. carbonaceous. variety of chlorides) minerals in silt Marginal reefs "Wedge" arkose Red. micaceous. positive quences Graywacke Chiefly siltstones. argillaceous shelf •uartz-muscovite be common in silt (subgraywacke) Subgraywacke Chiefly siltstones. silty. Strongly colors.602 E. cal. Stable to colors. Fragmental •uartz-iron oxide conitic.

the abscissae representthe progress of time duringthe deposition of the singlecyclothem.Obviouslythe periodof coal depositionis one which is note- worthy by the absenceof elasticdeposition. The elasticdepositionalrate increasesrapidly in the early stagesof the cycleand reachesa maximumin approximatelythe middleof the basal sandstone deposition. The dottedline representsthe elevation of somearbitrarily selectedrock horizonimmediatelybelowthe baseof the cyclothemand servesas a referencedatum of the tectoniccondition.and if it remainslevel. 3.indicatethe dominant en- A. B.whereas. and the diastrophicchangesin the samearea as indicatedby the positionof somearbitrarily selectedrock horizon below the surface of depo- sition (dashedlines). Followingthe accumulation of .and then slowly decreasesas the fresh-waterlimestone accumulates. In theupperhalfof thediagram(A) the ordi- natesrepresentprobableelevations abovesea level./" •. Fro. Figure3 is an attemptto showgraphi- callytheinter-relationship between depositional •nvironments.and.andtectonicconditionprevalentduringthe accumulation of a typicalcoal cyclothemof westernIllinois.if it de- clines.. SBDI MBN TA TI ON. datum(so• level) / • ' depooitlonal • ' .. Diagram showingrate of elasticdepositionduring the accumulation of sediments in A. Diagram showingprobablepositionof surface of depositiondur- ing the accumulationof units of a typical Pennsylvaniancyclothemof western Illinois (dashedlines). If the line rises. 603 CYCLOTHEM STUDIES. It hasnot beenclearlyestablished how depositionhasvariedas the units of the cyclothemchangeregionally.the area is experiencingnegativetectonism..the areais stable.. A. The lowerhalfof the diagram(B) indicatesthe rate of elastic deposition(ordinate)duringthe progressof the total sedimentation (abscis- sae).the area is experiencing an increasein positivetectonism. The dashed linesrepresent the elevation of the surfaceuponwhichdeposition is takingplace(depositional interface).hence.continentalor marine. •claotic depooition .. vironment. elastic deposi- tion.

this is. Is this the expectedbehaviorof coalbedsthrough- out all the basins.changeswithin a unit may . In this connectionit is rational to suggestthat if a periodof tectonicstabilityis achievedwhenthe depositional interfacelies belowsealevel that a fusulinidlimestonedevelops. little in- formationpublishedon the characterof the variationsin thicknessof coalbeds. Considerable significance shouldbeattachedto thefactthattheperiodsof non-clasticdepositionare also the periodsof maximumtectonicstability.however. vitrain. C.how large a strati- graphicinterval must be selectedin order'to assurereasonablysatisfactory results? Obviouslythe essenceof muchof the work dependsupon the ac- curacyof the stratigraphiccorrelation.If such is the case. how is suchthinningre- lated to other units which constitute'the coal cycle? Thinning of the coal shouldalsobe examinedin termsof the percentage of coal types.if the depositional interfaceis slightlyabovesealevelcoalaccumulates.604 E. in someareasthe stratigraphicequivalentof a limestone should be a coal bed. Throughoutthis area the coal showsa pronouncedtend- encyto maintaina thicknessof 3 to 5 feet and departuresfrom this thickness are random. The increasein clasticmatter following the accumulationof the fusulinidlimestoneaccompanies the diastrophic changeas indicatedin Figure 3A by the positionof the referencerock horizon.it is necessaryto selecta unit clearlydefinedby operationalboundaries. or cannelpreferablyassociatewith any regional changesin the thicknessof beds? SELECTION OF THE STRATIGRAPHIC INTERVAL. butto a limiteddegree.Payneand Cady (7) havedrawnisopachs on the Herrin coalin Wayne County.one of the mostchar- acteristicfeaturesof the "coal measures. thecoalymatterclasticdepositionis againresumed.When the unit is de- limited by areally widespreadrecognizable beds. In fact. if so.whereas.when extensiveareas are considered.Illinois.and declinesagainto a very low valueduringthe deposition of the fusulinidlime- stone.coalshouldoccurin the positionof the fusulinidlimestonein those areasthat are marginalto the sea during the periodsof fusulinidlimestone deposition.and. DAPPLES.and significanterrors would lead to interpretativedisaster.or is it restrictedto parts of the basins? Are there any regionaltrendstowardthinningof coal. Sims. Is fusain likely to be more abundantin the thinner coals? Does durain." There has been. does a periodof tectonicstabilitycontrolthe developmentof widespreadcoal beds? Studiesfollowingsuchgenerallinesof thoughtshouldsupplyus with much neededinformationpertinentto the diastrophiccontrolsin coaldeposition. It is commonplaceknowledgethat certaincoalsare surprisinglyuniform in thicknessoververy extensiveareas. COAL THICKNESS STUDIES. Since the correlationof individual cyclothemsis somewhatuncertain. If the studiesrecommended herein are to be pursued. Hence. There is no tendencytoward any consistentthickening or thinningin any direction. and the reasonsfor the existenceof areally widespreadcoalbedsof surprisingly uniform thickness. Are these the "rider" coal beds? Moreover.

.America Spec. 27-33. 1944.5 be appraised. namely.. 1949. Lithofacies maps and regional sedimentary stratigraphic analysis: Am. J•ne 1•'. Elias.. . 3. It is the writer's firm conviction that such an approachwill providea clearerunderstanding of the processes involvedin the naturalhistoryof coal. 32. C. N.vol. DEPARTMENTOFGEOLOGY. W. and Cady. J. 9. Inv. 60. 130-165. Hence. • The megascopicstudy and field classification of sedimentary rocks: Jour.thecoalandfusulinid limestone. Once this is estab- lishedthen the localarea and the smallerunit can be properlyevaluated. 45. America Bull.. Tectonic control of lithologic associ- ations: Am. Wanless. theseshouldconstitutethe operationalboundariesof the stratigraphicintervalsexamined. Pap. Soc.. pp. pp. Krynine. ... 17. Pennsylvaniankey bedsin Wayne County and the structure of the "Shoal Creek" limestoneand the Herrin (No. lq'ORTH WESTF_•N UNIVERSITY. 1. H. 55. Exper. M. 1924--1947. 10. C.. 1945. P. EVANSTON.the mostwidespread and easilyrecognizable strataare those depositedduringtheintervalof tectonicstability. CONCLUDING I•EM ARK. For example. Krumbein.. 2. 7. C. 56. Petroleum GeologistsBull. Dapples. Min. Payne. W. pp. 1946. C. pp. SEDIMENTATION. 1909-1923. Depositional changesin cyclothems: (in press). 237-254.ILL.. 1947. R. SOC. and Sloss. Geology. Pennsylvanian geology of part of the Southern Appalachian coal field: Geol. vol. 6. 1947. vol. 1939.. L. D.. Bull. Assoc. 403-432.can be examined in the light of the aspects alreadysetforth. America Mere. vol. K. 32. 1940. Survey Rept. Krumbein.the changesin faciesover a large area. 1945.the interval betweentwo coals... $.. W.. Selectionof a thick unit permitsthe analysisof the regional aspect. Sta. Krurnbeln... pp. K.or two limestones. vol. 1937. Depth of deposition of the Big Blue (late Paleozoic) sedimentsin Kansas: Geol. Assoc.namely. In this connection. H. BIBLIOGRAPHY. Sims. 93. Pennsylvanian correlations in the Eastern Interior and Appalachian coal fields: Geol. 4. ]E.the aim has beento direct attentionto the petrologyof the rocks associated with the coal. Ind. 6) coal bed: Illinois Geol. G. The readeris doubtlessawarethatthepurposeof thisreporthasbeento enu- meraterather than solvesomeof the problemsassociated with coal sedimenta- tion. Regional variation in Pennsylvan/anlithology: Jour. L. 8. 13. Soc. In particular.or a coal and a limestone. Petroleum Geologists Bull. . and genesis o{ the Third Bradford sand: Pennsylvania State Coil. 29. Geology. P. PetrololD. pp.