Two main coal-bearing sequences developed during the Oligocene in the Tertiary Ebro Basin, the Calaf (early Oligocene) and Mequinenza (late Oligocene) coal basins. Coal deposition took place in shallow marsh-swamp-lake complexes which sometimes became closed and evolved under warm climatic conditions with fluctuating humidity. These shallow lacustrine systems are closely interrelated with the terminal parts of the distributive fluvial systems which spread from the tectonically active Ebro basin margins. Laterally extensive lignite-bearing sequences, including rather thin, lenticular autochthonous and/or hypautochthonous coal seams with high ash and sulphur contents, characterized coal deposition in the shallow lacustrine systems. Coal seam geometry, which makes them nearly subeconomic, resulted from the tectonic instability during basin margin evolution and the sometimes closed, arid conditions under which the lacustrine systems evolved. High ash and sulphur contents resulted from the inadequate isolation of peat forming environments from clastic influx and from the very low acidity and sometimes high sulphate contents of the lacustrine waters. Coal exploration in shallow lacustrine sequences similar to those described here must take into account that the spread of coal-forming environments and maxima of coal deposition are usually coincident with lake expansions and retraction or shifting of the terminal fluvial zones interrelated with the lacustrine areas.