Characterisation of Coal Micro-Structure Using Scanning Electron Microscopy

Beamish B B,
Organization: The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy
Pages: 14
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1991
In this study, a systematic examination of the scale and variety of micro-structures in coal using Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM) has been carried out, using coal samples of differing stages of coalification from the Bowen Basin and New Zealand. SEM provides detail of various micro-structural features and shows that a variety of micron-sized fractures and cavities are present in coals. These are differentiated into three pore types: fracture porosity, phyteral porosity and matrix porosity. Fracture porosity is generally associated with bright coals (although it has been shown that micro-fractures are present in maceral fragments from the dull coal layers). Characteristically the macro- and micro- fractures form a continuous structural fabric through the bright coal layers and thus make a significant contribution to overall permeability. The macro- and micro-fractures appear to have been formed during the process of coalification rather than being formed due to shrinkage during methane extraction, as most of them are infilled with secondary minerals. In contrast, phyteral and matrix porosity is associated with the dull coal layers that are composed of plant fragments or a heterogeneous mixture of macerals. Like the macro- and micro-fractures, the continuity of the observed cavities suggest that these too are a significant contribution to overall permeability, and therefore play a major role in the transmissibility of methane at a level between diffusion at the micropore level and laminar flow at the macro-fracture level. Due to different spacing, orientation and persistence of individual fractures and cavities, the rate of methane transmissibility through a coalseam will vary according to coal rank, coal type and the organic precursors from which the coal was derived. This is important as a knowledge of the micro-structure system and its relationship to coal type and coal rank, plays an important consideration in: a) gas drainage modelling, b) enhancing permeability by inducing fractures and c) predicting the occurrence of outbursts.
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