Year of Publication

1985

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

College

Arts and Sciences

Department

Geology

First Advisor

Dr. John C. Ferm

Second Advisor

Dr. Romeo M. Flores

Abstract

A study of a 250 ft. (76.2 m) stratigraphic interval that includes the Eocene-age Felix coal of the Wasatch Formation was undertaken in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming to establish a depositional model based on the interrelations of coal-seam geometry, coal maceral composition, and spatial distribution of adjoining rocks. Regional cross sections and maps of major rock bodies were prepared from 147 measured stratigraphic sections and 56 geophysical logs. Trends in maceral and chemical properties within the Felix coal were identified from petrographic and geochemical analyses of 72 coal channel samples. The combined data sets indicate that the thickest portions of the coal are underlain by widespread, interconnected, sandstone-dominated fining-upward sequences (< 50 ft. or 15 m thick over a 300 sq. mi. or 777 sq. km area) whereas areas of thin or split coal are underlain by stacked predominantly fine grained, coarsening-upward sequences (< 50 ft. or 15 m thick). Above the coal, fining-upward sequences are concentrated over thin coal areas and widespread (> 20 mi., 32 km wide) coarsening-upward sequences overlie thick coal areas. Megascopic and petrographic description of the coal indicates that the brightest coal contains the greatest amount of huminite. This type coal occurs in the lowest portion of the seam and directly above clay partings in thick coal areas and in split benches · on the margin of the deposit. The central and upper portion of the seam is predominantly dull, and inertinite percentages increase towards the top of the seam.

The deposits below the Felix resulted from north-northwest flowing meandering rivers. Thick peat represented by thick portions of the Felix coal accumulated upon this sandstone-dominated, poorly compactible platform that was free of sediment influx. Areas of thin and split Felix coal, underlain by fine-grained, more-compactible sediments, attracted water-borne elastics that interrupted peat accumulation. The base and split portions of the seam are the remains of predominantly coniferous trees that grew within a nutrient-rich environment, and the duller central and upper portions of the seam indicate oxidation associated with a raised peat deposit. Ash falls and fires during late stages of peat accumulation may have contributed to the demise of the swamp. After vegetation died large lakes formed and were subsequently filled by crevasse deposits from streams. The final phase of compaction of the fine-grained lake sediments and the thick underlying peat attracted anastomosed alluvial channels.

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