Significant amounts (>150m3/day/well) of water are currently being extracted from coalbed methane (CBM) wells in Permian–Carboniferous coal in the Liulin area of the eastern Ordos basin, China. Waters coproduced with CBM have common chemical characteristics that can be an important exploration tool because they relate to the coal depositional environment and hydrodynamic maturation of groundwater and can be used to guide CBM development strategies. The CBM production targets of the No. 3 and 4 coal seams from sandstone in the Shanxi Formation and No. 8, 9, and 10 coal seams in the karst of the Taiyuan Formation were deposited in fluvial-deltaic and epicontinental-sea environments, respectively. This paper combines CBM geology, hydrogeology, CBM recovery, and laboratory data to define mechanisms of CBM preservation including the important influence of groundwater. Relevant indices include fluid inclusions as an indicator of the hydraulic connection between the coal seam reservoir and the overlaying strata and the ensemble characteristics of total dissolved solids (TDS) contents of water, water production rates, and reservoir temperatures as an indication of the current hydraulic connection. The TDS contents of waters from the No. 3 and 4 and No. 9 and 10 coal seams are double those from the subjacent karst No. 8 coal seam, indicating the important control of fast flow in karst. Low-salinity fluid inclusions from the roof of the subjacent-karst No. 8 coal seam also indicate an enduring hydraulic connection with overlaying strata during its burial history. Relatively low current temperatures in the No. 8 (subjacent-karst) coal seam also infer a strong hydraulic connection and active flow regime. Deuterium concentrations are elevated in the mudstone-bounded No. 9 and 10 coal seams, further confirming low rates of fluid transmission. The gas contents of coal seams from the Taiyuan Formation are higher than those from the sandstone-bounded coal seams in Shanxi Formation, also correlating with low rates of water transmission and low permeability. Conceptual models for these fluvial-deltaic and epicontinental-sea environments that are consistent with geology, gas content, and gas and water production rate histories are of gas-pressure sealing for the Shanxi Formation and hydrostatic-pressure sealing for the Taiyuan Formation. These results confirm the important controls of hydrogeological conditions on the preservation of CBM and the utility of hydrogeological indicators in prospecting for CBM.

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