For the past 15 years oil, of all the fossil fuels, has been the most prominent in both geological and non-geological literature. Significant progress has been made on many aspects, especially in exploration by employing interdisciplinary approaches to make scientific and economic gains. Technical advances have allowed exploration to move into more hostile geographical areas. The effect on research of this increased exploration effort has been to stimulate new interpretations in several areas of geology, especially in sedimentology, tectonics, geophysics and geochemistry.
Coal has, to some extent, remained a poor relation. Effort has been directed to more technical aspects of production and utilization rather than in the investigation of more fundamental aspects concerning its origin. In spite of this there has been significant progress in several aspects of coal geology over the past 15 years. In addition, new geographical areas are opening up for exploration, most notably China, Australia, western North America and Indonesia. The time is right, therefore, to highlight recent advances in coal research.
In 1968, following an inter-university student conference, D. G. Murchison and T. S. Westoll edited an important volume on Coal and Coal-bearing Strata which synthesized several important aspects of coal research. Soon after this, the second edition of Stach’s classic TextbookofCoal Petrology was published (Stach et al. 1975, now in its third edition). Much is owed to work of M. & R. Teichmiiller on coalification and its uses. The recent upsurge of interest in coal geology is indicated by the publications of