Structural characterization of vitrinite-rich and inertinite-rich Permian-aged South African bituminous coals

Daniel Van Niekerk, Ronald J. Pugmire, Mark S. Solum, Paul C. Painter, Jonathan P. Mathews

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Two South African coals of the same rank and age, but different in maceral composition were subjected to extensive structural analyses. Inertinite-rich Highveld coal (dominated by semifusinite) and vitrinite-rich Waterberg coal were studied to determine structural differences and similarities. The two coals had similar carbon content (∼ 84%, dmmf) and vitrinite reflectance (mean-maximum 0.71% for vitrinite-rich vs. 0.75% for inertinite-rich), but differed in hydrogen content (6.23% for vitrinite-rich and 4.53% for inertinite-rich). The inertinite-rich coal was more aromatic (86% for inertinite-rich and 76% for vitrinite-rich) and more polycondensed (indicated by a higher bridgehead carbon content). The inertinite-rich coal was structurally more ordered, with a higher degree of crystalline stacking. Both coals had similar average aromatic cluster sizes (16 carbons for vitrinite-rich and 18 carbons for inertinite-rich) and number of cluster attachments (6 attachments for vitrinite-rich and 5 attachments for inertinite-rich). Mass spectrometry showed that both coals consist of similar molecular weight distributions; ranging to approximately 1700 m/z with a maximum abundance of ∼ 450 m/z for the vitrinite-rich coal and ∼ 550 m/z for the inertinite-rich coal. Compared to the Argonne Premium coals the South African vitrinite-rich Waterberg coal was comparable to the coals in the high-volatile bituminous range and inertinite-rich Highveld was closer to the medium- to low-volatile bituminous range. Both coals were surprisingly similar in bulk characterization, although inertinite-rich Highveld coal was structurally more ordered, hydrogen deficient, and more aromatic.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)290-300
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Coal Geology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Fuel Technology
  • Geology
  • Economic Geology
  • Stratigraphy


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