Abstract

The present study discusses coal rank and burial histories for Cretaceous–Tertiary coal measures and thermal maturity of associated source rocks. Coal rank ranges from subbituminous to semianthracite. Coalification maps for selected coal zones indicate a broad coalification maximum east of the deformed belt. In the Pocahontas, Brûlé, and Hinton areas, rank levels appear to be elevated locally due to geothermal anomalies. Thermal modelling indicates that the westward decrease of coal rank in Lower Cretaceous strata is related to a westward decrease in the duration of burial beneath Maastrichtian–Eocene foreland-basin deposits. Upper Cretaceous – Tertiary strata were subjected to relatively low geothermal gradients (< 20 °C/km), whereas Lower Cretaceous strata were exposed to much higher gradients (up to 46 °C/km). Tectonic loading in the foothills had only a minor impact on coalification. At Obed Marsh (Alberta Syncline) thermal modelling suggests that deformation in the thrust belt continued for at least a few million years beyond the 60 Ma age recently suggested by fission-track analysis to indicate the end of Laramide deformation. Petroleum source rock intervals of the study area are currently at various stages of thermal maturity (oil generation window to dry gas zone). Coal seams in the Upper Cretaceous – Tertiary coal measures at and near surface have rank levels suitable for combustion, whereas seams in the Lower Cretaceous coal measures are high-quality metallurgical coals. East of the deformed belt the coal measures occur at depths that at the present time are uneconomic for production.

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