Neo-mineral formation during artificial coalification of low-ash -- mineral free-peat material from tropical Malaysia-potential explanation for low ash coals

Wüst, Raphael, Bustin, R. Marc, and Ross, John (2008) Neo-mineral formation during artificial coalification of low-ash -- mineral free-peat material from tropical Malaysia-potential explanation for low ash coals. International Journal of Coal Geology, 74 (2). pp. 114-122.

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Abstract

Abundant coal deposits have very low inorganic contents (ash yield; < 2%) and hence are almost ash-free. Inexplicable to date is that the precursor of coal, modern peat deposits, almost nowhere have such low ash yields as a result of both the inorganic mineral and biogenic phytolith contents. However, despite the common occurrence of phytoliths in modern peats, they are invariably absent in coals. It has thus been hypothesized by some investigators that modern environments are not ideal analogues for the formation of low ash coal deposits. Here we present new evidence to suggest that mineral diagenesis during coalification can transform biogenic inorganics to new minerals and that a substantial component of these new minerals could be removed in solution during expulsion of moisture with coalification resulting in low ash precursors of coal. This study presents results from artificial coalification experiments of modern tropical forest peat material with ash yields between 2-4.3 wt.%. The inorganic material of the peat consists almost exclusively of Al-Si-and Si-rich phytoliths and other bioliths; no other inorganic mineral matter is present. Compressed pellets of dried peat were deformed in a Griggs constant strain rate apparatus at a constant confining pressure of 5 kb and constant strain rate of 10- 5 s - 1 at variable temperatures from 350 [degree sign]C to 550 [degree sign]C. The samples, exposed to artificial coalification processes, were then analysed by SEM, EDS, and XRD for semi-quantitative chemical analyses. The deformed material showed a lack of any biogenic silica and Al-Si-phytoliths, but contained neoformed idiomorphic quartz crystals and clays. We conclude that modern peat forming environments that have low-ash peats containing biogenic silica and other biogenic Al-Si-material can represent precursors of very low-ash coal deposits. Our experiments illustrate that during coalification, it is likely all or almost all biogenic material is transformed into new minerals, mainly quartz and clay minerals, such as kaolinite. Because natural systems are not confined to the same degree as our experiments, it is likely that part or all of the inorganic fraction migrates in solutions out of the peat or coal seam with available fluids, resulting in an almost ash-free coal deposit.

Item ID: 1854
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1872-7840
Keywords: peat, coalification, biogenic minerals, authigenic quartz, clay mineral genesis
Date Deposited: 07 Apr 2008
FoR Codes: 04 EARTH SCIENCES > 0402 Geochemistry > 040299 Geochemistry not elsewhere classified @ 50%
04 EARTH SCIENCES > 0499 Other Earth Sciences > 049999 Earth Sciences not elsewhere classified @ 50%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970104 Expanding Knowledge in the Earth Sciences @ 50%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9603 Climate and Climate Change > 960399 Climate and Climate Change not elsewhere classified @ 50%
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