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ABSTRACT: Coal: Alberta's Untapped Energy Treasury

R. J. H. Richardson

The total resources of coal in Alberta have been broadly estimated by the Alberta Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB) at 2400 gigatonnes. The energy in the coal is 23 times that available in the province's substantial remaining reserves of conventional oil (estimated at 25,000 petajoules); and more than 3.7 times that of the Alberta's massive oil sands deposits. Although most of the coal resource will never be mined, the prospect of recovering coalbed methane from a substantial portion of Alberta's coal is promising both because of the availability of coal and favorable geological conditions. Studies to quantify the gas potential of Alberta coals are now underway for several coal zones.

One such zone, the Paleocene Ardley Coal zone, has calculated resources in the order of 425 gigatonnes (figure does not include the equivalent Wapiti and Coalspur coals in the northern and tectonically disturbed parts of the basin) along a 400 km subcrop and dipping, to about 900 m depth, 150 km southwest into the Alberta Syncline. The geologic model developed for the Ardley Coal zone involves a continental setting in an alluvial plain environment characterized by widespread peat swamps that were far removed from marine conditions. Owing to extremely low relief, relatively rapid subsidence and sediment starvation, thick and extensive peats developed. In general the seams thicken and more seams are present with increasing depth. These deeper coal resources may contain large volumes of as. Thick seams (2 to 3 m) are also present at subcrop and are mined to supply mine mouth power stations.

AAPG Search and Discovery Article #90097©1990 Fifth Circum-Pacific Energy and Mineral Resources Conference, Honolulu, Hawaii, July 29-August 3, 1990