What Does Plate Tectonics Have To Do With Coal Formation

The most abundant fossil fuel, coal is a combustible rock that contains more than 50 percent (by weight) carbonaceous material formed by the compaction and induration of plant remains. Coal is a black sedimentary rock that consists chiefly of

Oil platform off California coast (Susan Quinland-Stringer, Shutterstock, Inc.)

decomposed plant matter, with less than 40 percent inorganic material. Most coal formed in ancient swamps, where stagnant oxygen-deficient water prevented rapid decay and allowed burial and trapping of organic matter. In addition anaerobic bacteria in these environments attack the organic matter, releasing more oxygen and forming peat, a porous mass of organic matter that preserves recognizable twigs and other plant parts. Peat contains about 50 percent carbon and burns readily when dried. With increasing temperature and pressure, coal increases in rank, along with an increase of carbon content. In this process peat is transformed into lignite, bituminous coal, and eventually anthracite. Anthracite contains more than 90 percent carbon and is much shinier, brighter, and harder than bituminous coal and lignite. Coal is classified according to its rank and by the amount of impurities present.

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Responses

  • amanda
    What does plate tectonics have to do with coal formation?
    7 months ago
  • Tuulikki Koivunen
    Where is coal and tectonic plates?
    7 months ago

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