Mining Publication: Geology of the Lower Kittanning Coalbed and Related Mining and Methane Emission Problems in Cambria County, Pa.
The Bureau of Mines established geologic factors affecting the mining of the Lower Kittanning coalbed to aid in coalbed minability studies and examined the occurrence of "wants" (places where coal is missing) and types of unstable roof rock strata. Trends established from mapping, including prediction of areas of high methane emissions, were extrapolated to unmined areas. "Wants" in the coalbed are of two types: erosional and depositional. Erosional features occur where north-south-trending sand-filled channels cut into the coalbed. Variations in depositional environments have caused the coalbed to "split" into several thinner units. Slickensides, commonly indicative of unstable roof, are adjacent to and on the underside of sandstone channels; they were caused by differential compaction and by soft sediment sliding along the contact between the sandstone and adjacent shale. The frequency of unstable roof also increases where the interval between the middle and Lower Kittanning coalbed is less than 30 feet. The zones of weakness at the contacts above and below the Middle Kittanning coalbed are the controlling factors for unstable roof in these strata. Methane emissions from the coalbed are controlled primarily by depth, fracture permeability, and rank of coal. Local geologic factors are coalbed thickness, associated rock strata, structure, and proximity to outcrop.