Encyclopedia of Geochemistry

2018 Edition
| Editors: William M. White


  • Stephen F. GrebEmail author
  • Cortland F. Eble
  • James C. Hower
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-39312-4_153


Coal is a naturally occurring sedimentary carbonaceous rock composed of at least 50% organic matter by weight, and 70% carbonaceous material by volume, mostly from the diagenesis (chemical and physical alteration) of plant material in buried peat (Schopf 1956, 1966; Alpern and DeSousa 2002). Coal is a solid hydrocarbon. It is a rock that can burn. Coal does not have a distinct chemical formula, although it is dominated by complexly bound C, H, O, N, and S. Coal has an organic matrix but also contains inorganic (mineral) and fluid components. The chemical variability in coal is a result of (1) variability in the soils and weathered surfaces upon which the peat accumulated, (2) different types of plants and plant remains in peat, different types of peat mires, (3) the depositional history of the peat mire, (4) the syndepositional environments lateral to the peat which contributed inorganic sediment to the mire, (5) burial environments and history, (6) the long diagenetic...

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Authors and Affiliations

  • Stephen F. Greb
    • 1
    Email author
  • Cortland F. Eble
    • 1
  • James C. Hower
    • 2
  1. 1.Kentucky Geological SurveyUniversity of KentuckyLexingtonUSA
  2. 2.Center for Applied Energy ResearchUniversity of KentuckyLexingtonUSA