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Coal Geology, 2nd Edition

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Coal Geology, 2nd Edition
By Larry J. Thomas
Wiley-Blackwell (2013)
ISBN: 978-1-1199-9044-4

Reviewed by Boris Segel - July 1, 2016

Whether you are for or against coal as an energy source, coal is a must have item for most rock collections. In West Virginia, and many areas with coal geology, you can pick up samples just about anywhere. But when it comes to learning about coal geology, you have to take a more serious approach than simply looking for pieces in a creek or along road cutouts. The best introductory, academic book on coal geology that I've found is the second edition of Coal Geology by Larry J. Thomas. Although designed for college students and new geologists just entering the field, this book is also suitable for amateurs with a decent understanding of geology who are interested in learning about the development and origins of coal, its properties, where it can be found, how it is mined, and its industrial uses. What makes this book so ideal for amateurs is that it is surprising nontechnical. Yes, the book does assume that you have a basic understanding of geology, but it does not presuppose that you have had advanced maths or that you've been working in the coal industry. Rather it is geared toward providing a general overview of coal geology, and in providing you with a solid foundation which will prepare you to explore any of the subjects covered in this book, in greater detail.

Coal Geology is filled with great, explanatory pictures and helpful charts. It covers topics such as 'sedimentation of coal and coal-bearing sequences' and the 'classification of coals'. It also deals with coal sampling and exploration, the hydrogeology of coal, coal mining, and coal as an 'alternative' energy source, and much, much more. As stated in the book's introduction, this book is designed to be more of a guide to the physical and chemical properties of coal, coal geology, and the coal industry. This book is not intended to be a 'complete' reference on coal geology. Most important, this book does not just look at coal and the coal industry in the United States, rather it takes a global perspective.

If you just want to pick up pieces of coal and figure what type it is, there are plenty of resources online that will suffice. But if you truly want to understand the science behind coal, this book will be a big help. What will not help is the price. As a college/professional textbook, the price of this book is the hefty side. If you are simply a rockhound looking for some in-depth information on coal, it might be best to try to get a copy through the interlibrary loan program if your library doesn't already have a copy. Then, if you find that this is a book that you are likely to refer to often enough - then pop the big bucks. (The best deal I found was slightly more than $100 for a used copy). If you are a junior geologist just getting ready to head out to work in the coal industry then this is a must-have primer, so you'll probably need the book now rather than later. As well, if you need this book for school, then plan on shelling out the dosh up-front!

All in all, I found this book relatively easy to understand and extremely informative. The next time I go out on a coal hunting expedition I'll not only be more informed about the quarry, but also better able to expound upon the glory of coal to any poor slob who makes the mistake of asking me what I'm doing ;-) Happy Rockhounding!!!!

Related Reviews:

Earth Materials: Introduction to Mineralogy and Petrology, by Cornelis Klein and Anthony Philpotts.
This book offers an accessible and fully-illustrated introduction to mineralogy for college students and rock hounds looking for information on how to scientifically identify rocks and minerals.

Elements of Petroleum Geology, 3e, by Richard C. Selley and Stephen A. Sonnenberg.
Fully updated and revised, this new edition of Elements of Petroleum Geology is essential reading for students and oil industry professionals of every ilk. It also offers motivate amateurs with a detailed and understandable introduction to the rapidly changing field of petroleum geoscience.

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