Coal formation begins in peat swamps or bogs, in which microorganisms alter plant material and initiate the formation of carbonaceous sediments. Methane, which constitutes about 98 percent of the hydrocarbon gas in coalbeds, is known to be a product of anaerobic microbial metabolism. To determine if other hydrocarbon gases could be produced in an environment similar to that of a swamp, samples of wood cellulose and lignin were inoculated with soil microorganisms and incubated anaerobically. The resultant gases included methane, ethylene, propane, propylene, butanes, pentanes, and carbon dioxide. Hydrogen was also produced from the wood samples during the first month of incubation. Over 90 percent of the produced gas was methane; co2 was the other predominant component. Concentrations of all other hydrocarbon gases ranged from 1 to 20 parts per million, approximately 0.1 percent of the total hydrocarbons, which was less than the concentration in coalbeds. Therefore, although higher hydrocarbons could be produced in a swamp environment, subsequent mechanisms, either concentration by adsorption or formation during geochemical reactions, must affect the final concentration of higher hydrocarbons in coalbeds.