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Coal is an important and required energy source for today's world. Current rates of world coal consumption are projected to continue at approximately the same (or greater) levels well into the twenty-first century. This paper will provide an introduction to the concept of coal systems analysis and the accompanying volume of papers will provide examples of how coal systems analysis can be used to understand, characterize, and evaluate coal and coal gas resources. Coal systems analysis incorporates the various disciplines of coal geology to provide a complete characterization of the resource. The coal system is divided into four stages: (1) accumulation, (2) preservation-burial, (3) diagenesis-coalification, and (4) coal and hydrocarbon resources. These stages are briefly discussed and key references and examples of the application of coal systems analysis are provided.

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