Powder River Basin


The content of this page, as it develops, will supplement the material presented in Mountains and Plains: The Ecology of Wyoming Landscapes (2nd edition).  Readers with questions are encouraged to contact us.

Coal formation and low sulfur content

In writing about the Cenozoic, we mention on page 14 that coal was formed by the compression of plant material under deep sediments.  However, one of our readers indicates that coal was formed not by pressure but through the action of bacterial decay of peat followed by changes caused by geothermal heat trapped by the overburden.  Also, Wyoming's low-sulfur coal developed in freshwater environments, not in both freshwater and estuarine environments, as we imply. 

For a more detailed discussion of coal formation, see the book titled Coal Geology (2nd edition) by Larry Thomas or the following website of the Wyoming State Geological Survey. http://www.wsgs.wyo.gov/Research/Energy/Coal/Geology.aspx

For a popular history of the pros and cons of burning coal, see the book written by Barbara Freese, Coal: A Human History, published by Penguin Books.