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Alaska Coal Geology, Resources, and Coalbed Methane Potential

By Romeo M. Flores, Gary D. Stricker, and Scott A. Kinney

thumbnail image of figure 1 in the report

Estimated Alaska coal resources are largely in Cretaceous and Tertiary rocks distributed in three major provinces. Northern Alaska-Slope, Central Alaska-Nenana, and Southern Alaska-Cook Inlet. Cretaceous resources, predominantly bituminous coal and lignite, are in the Northern Alaska-Slope coal province. Most of the Tertiary resources, mainly lignite to subbituminous coal with minor amounts of bituminous and semianthracite coals, are in the other two provinces. The combined measured, indicated, inferred, and hypothetical coal resources in the three areas are estimated to be 5,526 billion short tons (5,012 billion metric tons), which constitutes about 87 percent of Alaska’s coal and surpasses the total coal resources of the conterminous United States by 40 percent.

Coal mining has been intermittent in the Central Alaskan-Nenana and Southern Alaska-Cook Inlet coal provinces, with only a small fraction of the identified coal resource having been produced from some dozen underground and strip mines. Alaskan coals have a lower sulfur content (averaging 0.3 percent) than most coals in the conterminous United States and are within or below minimum sulfur value mandated by the 1990 Clean Air Act amendments. Another untapped potential resource is coalbed methane estimated to total 1,000 trillion cubic feet (28 trillion cubic meters).

Version 1.0

Posted November 2005

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