Influence of depositional environment on coalbed methane accumulation in the Carboniferous-Permian coal of the Qinshui Basin, northern China

  • Haihai HouEmail author
  • Longyi ShaoEmail author
  • Shuai Wang
  • Zhenghui Xiao
  • Xuetian Wang
  • Zhen Li
  • Guangyuan Mu
Research Article


Based on analyses of the lithofacies palaeogeography of the Taiyuan and the Shanxi Formations in the Qinshui Basin, the spatial variations of the coal seam thickness, coal maceral composition, coal quality, and gas content, together with the lithofacies of the surrounding rocks in each palaeogeographic unit were investigated. The results show that the thick coals of the Taiyuan Formation are mainly distributed in delta and barrier island depositional units in the Yangquan area in the northern part of the basin and the Zhangzi area in the southeastern part of the basin. The thick coals of the Shanxi Formation are located within transitional areas between delta plain and delta front depositional units in the central southern part of the basin. The Taiyuan Formation generally includes mudstone in its lower part, thick, continuous coal seams and limestones in its middle part, and thin, discontinuous coal seams and limestone and sand-mud interbeds in its top part. The Shanxi Formation consists of thick, continuous sandstones in its lower part, thick coal seams in its middle part, and thin coal seams, sandstone, and thick mudstone in its upper part. From the perspective of coal-bearing sedimentology and coalbed methane (CBM) geology, the lithology and thickness of the surrounding rocks of coal seams play more significant roles in controlling gas content variation than other factors such as coal thickness, coal macerals, and coal quality. Furthermore, it is found that the key factors influencing the gas content variation are the thicknesses of mudstone and limestone overlying a coal seam. At similar burial depths, the gas content of the Taiyuan coal seams decreases gradually in the lower delta plain, barrier-lagoon, delta front, barrier-tidal flat, and carbonate platform depositional units. The CBM enrichment areas tend to be located in zones of poorly developed limestone and well-developed mudstone. In addition, the gas content of the Shanxi Formation is higher in the coals of the delta front facies compared to those in the lower delta plain. The CBM enrichment areas tend to be associated with the thicker mudstones. Therefore, based on the lithologic distribution and thickness of the rocks overlying the coal seam in each palaeogeographic unit of the Taiyuan and Shanxi Formations, the areas with higher gas content are located in the north-central basin for the Taiyuan coals and in the southern basin for the Shanxi coals. Both of these areas should be favorable for CBM exploration in the Qinshui Basin.


depositional environment coalbed methane enrichment condition gas content Taiyuan Formation Shanxi Formation 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.



This research was supported by the National Science and Technology Major Project (2016ZX05041004-003), the China Geological Survey Scientific Research Project (1212011220794, DD20160204-03, and DD20160204-YQ17W01) and the PhD Research Foundation of Liaoning Technical University (20181124 and 20170520312).


  1. Adegoke A K, Abdullah W H, Hakimi M H (2015). Geochemical and petrographic characterization of organic matter from the upper cretaceous Fika shale succession in the Chad (Bornu) Basin, northeastern Nigeria: origin and hydrocarbon generation potential. Mar Pet Geol, 61(6): 95–110CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bohacs K M, Suter J R (1997). Sequence stratigraphic distribution of coaly rocks: fundamental controls and paralic examples. AAPG Bull, 81(10): 1612–1639Google Scholar
  3. Bustin R M, Clarkson C R (1998). Geological controls on coalbed methane reservoir capacity and gas content. Int J Coal Geol, 38(1–2): 3–26CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Deschamps R, Sale S O, Chauveau B, Fierens R, Euzen T (2017). The coal-bearing strata of the Lower Cretaceous Mannville Group (Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin, South Central Alberta). Part 1: stratigraphic architecture and coal distribution controlling factors. Int J Coal Geol, 179: 113–129CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Durska E (2008). A 90 m-thick coal seam in the Lubstów lignite deposit (Central Poland): palynological analysis and sedimentary environment. Geol Q, 52(3): 281–290Google Scholar
  6. Farhaduzzaman M, Abdullah W H, Islam M A (2013). Petrographic characteristics and palaeoenvironment of the Permian coal resources of the Barapukuria and Dighipara Basins, Bangladesh. J Asian Earth Sci, 64: 272–287CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Fu H J, Tang D Z, Xu T, Xu H, Tao S, Zhao J L, Chen B L, Yin Z Y (2017). Preliminary research on CBM enrichment models of low-rank coal and its geological controls: a case study in the middle of the southern Junggar Basin, NW China. Mar Pet Geol, 83: 97–110CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Greb S F (2013). Coal more than a resource: critical data for understanding a variety of earth-science concepts. Int J Coal Geol, 118(10): 15–32CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Hildenbrand A, Krooss B M, Busch A, Gaschnitz R (2006). Evolution of methane sorption capacity of coal seams as a function of burial history — a case study from the Campine Basin, NE Belgium. Int J Coal Geol, 66(3): 179–203CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Holdgate G R, Wallace M W, Gallagher S J, Taylor D (2000). A review of the Traralgon Formation in the Gippsland Basin — a world class brown coal resource. Int J Coal Geol, 45(1): 55–84CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Holz M, Kalkreuth W, Banerjee I (2002). Sequence stratigraphy of paralic coal-bearing strata: an overview. Int J Coal Geol, 48(3–4): 147–179CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Hou H H, Shao L Y, Li Y H, Li Z, Wang S, Zhang W L, Wang X T (2017b). Influence of coal petrology on methane adsorption capacity of the middle Jurassic coal in the Yuqia Coalfield, northern Qaidam Basin, China. J Petrol Sci Eng, 149: 218–227CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Hou H H, Shao L Y, Li Y H, Lu J, Li Z, Wang S, Zhang W L, Wen H J (2017a). Geochemistry, reservoir characterization and hydrocarbon generation potential of lacustrine shales: a case of YQ-1 well in the Yuqia Coalfield, northern Qaidam Basin, NW China. Mar Pet Geol, 88: 458–471CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Hsü K J (1989). Origin of sedimentary basins of China. In: Zhu X, ed. Chinese Sedimentary Basins. Amsterdam: Elsevier, 207–227Google Scholar
  15. Hu Z Z, Huang W H, Xu Q L, Feng X L, Cui X N, Zhang Q (2016). The correlation analysis on influence factors of coalbed methane content in No. 3 coalbed of northern Shizhuang Block. Bull Sci Tech, 32(7): 36–42 (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  16. Laxminarayana C, Crosdale P J (2002). Controls on methane sorption capacity of Indian coals. AAPG Bull, 86(2): 201–212Google Scholar
  17. Li M, Shao L Y, Lu J, Spiro B, Wen H J, Li Y H (2014b). Sequence stratigraphy and paleogeography of the Middle Jurassic coal measures in the Yuqia Coalfield, northern Qaidam Basin, northwestern China. AAPG Bull, 98(12): 2531–2550CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Li Y J, Shao L Y, Eriksson K A, Tong X, Gao C X, Chen Z S (2014a). Linked sequence stratigraphy and tectonics in the Sichuan continental foreland basin, Upper Triassic Xujiahe Formation, southwest China. J Asian Earth Sci, 88(1): 116–136Google Scholar
  19. Lin R H, Soong Y, Granite E J (2018). Evaluation of trace elements in U. S. coals using the USGS COALQUAL database version 3.0. Part I: rare earth elements and yttrium (REY). Int J Coal Geol, 192: 1–13CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Liu F (2007). The characteristics of coal reservoirs and evaluation of coalbed methane enrichment and high-productivity in Qinshui Basin of Shanxi Province. Chengdu: Chengdu University of Technology, 46–49 (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  21. Liu S F, Su S, Zhang G W (2013). Early Mesozoic basin development in North China: indications of cratonic deformation. J Asian Earth Sci, 62: 221–236CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Marchioni D, Gibling M, Kalkreuth W (1996). Petrography and depositional environment of coal seams in the Carboniferous Morien Group, Sydney Coalfield, Nova Scotia. Can J Earth Sci, 33(6): 863–874CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Mastalerz M, Drobniak A, Strąpoć D, Solano Acosta W, Rupp J (2008). Variations in pore characteristics in high volatile bituminous coals: implications for coal bed gas content. Int J Coal Geol, 76(3): 205–216CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Miao M (2016). Influences of depositional environment on reservoir space of coal in Hegang Coalfield. Coal Sci Tech, 44(11): 160–166 (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  25. Misiak J (2006). Petrography and depositional environment of the No. 308 coal seam (Upper Silesian Coal Basin, Poland)—a new approach to maceral quantification and facies analysis. Int J Coal Geol, 68(1–2): 117–126CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Moore T A, Shearer J C (2003). Peat/coal type and depositional environment: are they related? Int J Coal Geol, 56(3–4): 233–252CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Paul S, Chatterjee R (2011). Determination of in-situ stress direction from cleat orientation mapping for coal bed methane exploration in south-eastern part of Jharia coalfield, India. Int J Coal Geol, 87(2): 87–96CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Perera M S A, Ranjith P G, Choi S K, Airey D, Weniger P (2012). Estimation of gas adsorption capacity in coal: a review and an analytical study. Int J Coal Prep Util, 32(1): 25–55CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Petersen H I, Rosenberg P, Andsbjerg J (1996). Organic geochemistry in relation to the depositional environments of Middle Jurassic coal seams, Danish Central Graben, and implications for hydrocarbon generative potential. AAPG Bull, 80(1): 47–62Google Scholar
  30. Qin Y, Fu X H, Yue W, Lin D Y, Ye J P, Jiao S Y (2000). Relationship between depositional systems and characteristics of coalbed gas reservoir and its caprock. J Palaeogeogr, 2(1): 77–83 (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  31. Ruppert F R, Kirschbaum M A, Warwick P D, Flores R M, Affolter R H, Hatch J R (2002). The US Geological Survey’s national coal resource assessment: the results. Int J Coal Geol, 50(1): 247–274CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Shao L Y, Xiao Z H, Lu J, He Z P, Wang H, Zhang P F (2007). Permo-Carboniferous coal measures in the Qinshui basin: lithofacies paleogeography and its control on coal accumulation. Front Earth Sci, 1(1): 106–115CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Shao L Y, Yang Z Y, Shang X X, Xiao Z H, Wang S, Zhang W L, Zheng M Q, Lu J (2015). Lithofacies palaeogeography of Carboniferous and Permian in the Qinshui Basin, Shanxi Province, China. J Palaeogeogr, 4(4): 384–413CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Song Y, Liu S B, Ju Y W, Hong F, Jiang L, Ma X Z, Wei M M (2013). Coupling between gas content and permeability controlling enrichment zones of high abundance coal bed methane. Acta Petrol Sin, 34(3): 417–426 (in Chinese)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Su X B, Lin X Y, Liu S B, Zhao M J, Song Y (2005b). Geology of coalbed methane reservoirs in the Southeast Qinshui Basin of China. Int J Coal Geol, 62(4): 197–210CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Su X B, Lin X Y, Zhao M J, Song Y, Liu S B (2005a). The upper Paleozoic coalbed methane system in the Qinshui Basin, China. AAPG Bull, 89(1): 81–100CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Teichmüller M (1982). Origin of the petrographic constituents of coal. In: Stach E, Mackowsky MTh, Teichmüller M, Taylor G H, Chandra D, Teichmüller R, eds. Stach’s Textbook of Coal Petrology (3rd ed). Berlin: Gebrüder-BorntraegerGoogle Scholar
  38. Wang H C, Pan J N, Wang S, Zhu H T (2015). Relationship between macro-fracture density, P-wave velocity, and permeability of coal. J Appl Geophys, 117: 111–117CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Wei C T, Sang S X (1997). Characteristics and their interpretation of main CBM reservoirs in the southern Hedong coalfield, Xiangning, Shanxi. J China Univ Min Tech, 26(4): 45–48 (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  40. Yao Y F, Li X C, Zhou Y Z, Hao N, Liu K Y, Zhang M Y (1999). The function of surrounding rock in CBM exploration and development. Well Test, 8(1): 42–44 (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  41. Ye D M, Luo J W, Xiao W Z (1997). Genesis and its Application of Maceral Characteristics in Southwestern China. Beijing: Geological Press, 1–109 (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  42. Yin G X, Zhang Z Y (1987). The relationship between gas content and depositional systems of Longtan formation in southwestern China. Coal Geol Explor, 15(2): 5–10 (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  43. Zdravkov A, Kortenski J (2004). Petrology, mineralogy and depositional environment of the coals from Bell Breg Basin, Bulgaria. Comptes Rendus De Lacademie Bulgare Des Science, 57(1–3): 1–53Google Scholar
  44. Zhang X L, Cheng Y P, Wang L, Zhao W (2015). Research on the controlling effects of a layered sill with different thicknesses on the underlying coal seam gas occurrence. J Nat Gas Sci Eng, 22(22): 406–414CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Zhu X M (2008). Sedimentary Petrology (4th ed). Beijing: Petroleum Industry Press, 208–286 (in Chinese)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Higher Education Press and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.College of Geoscience and Surveying EngineeringChina University of Mining and TechnologyBeijingChina
  2. 2.College of MiningLiaoning Technical UniversityFuxinChina
  3. 3.School of Civil EngineeringHunan University of Science and TechnologyXiangtanChina

Personalised recommendations