News: Recent and Ongoing Research

Dividing Line


Research Summaries

Coal Availability Study--Although the U.S. has abundant coal resources, portions of this resource base are not minable. It is vital to West Virginia and the nation to learn how much of this resource can really be utilized. The Coal Availability Study, in which the Survey has participated since 1988, is a cooperative project funded by the U.S. Geological Survey through the National Coal Resources Data System program. The purpose of the study is to calculate how much of the remaining coal resources are available after considering regulatory, environmental, technological, land-use, coal quality, and geological restrictions to surface and underground mining. Detailed investigations are undertaken of the coal resources within 7.5-minute quadrangles representative of the geology and mining practices of larger areas. Initially focusing on the coal resources of the central Appalachian basin (which includes southern West Virginia), the study expanded in 1991 to include northern West Virginia. To date, investigations have been completed on the Beckley, Sylvester, Mammoth, War, Crumpler, and Man quadrangles in southern West Virginia, and on the Rivesville, Glover Gap, Camden, Thornton, and Valley Point quadrangles in northern West Virginia. Investigation of the Mt. Storm Lake quadrangle, Tucker and Grant counties, was completed late in the fiscal year. Resources of the Weirton quadrangle, Hancock and Brooke counties, will be the last area investigated.

Coal-bed Mapping Project--The geographic information system (GIS)-based Mineral Lands Mapping Program is a cooperative effort between the Survey, the West Virginia Department of Tax and Revenue, and the West Virginia University (WVU) Department of Geology and Geography. The Department of Tax and Revenue is responsible for creating GIS layers of mineral parcel ownership. WVU is charged with creating various GIS base map layers, or digital line graphs (DLG). The Survey is conducting the Coal-bed Mapping Project wherein a GIS-based inventory of coal in the State is being created. Coal-bed maps or layers being created include: structural contour maps; outcrop maps; surface, auger, and underground mined area maps; coal thickness maps; percent parting maps; and coal quality maps. Coal-bed coverages for Fayette County were completed in 1998 while maps and GIS coverages for 12 beds in Monongalia, Marion, and Harrison counties were completed in 1999. GIS coverages for all important coal beds in Wetzel, Marshall, Ohio, Brooke, and Hancock counties were completed in 2000. All coverages for 20 coal beds of the Kanawha Formation in western Raleigh County were completed last fiscal year. Work also progressed in eastern Raleigh County with compilation of underground mined areas of the New River and Pocahontas coal beds. Mapping efforts continued in Kanawha County and parts of Putnam County with stratigraphic database work and underground mining compilation. Mining compilation and stratigraphic correlation work continued in Boone and northern Wyoming counties. Underground mining compilations for 24 beds in eastern Raleigh, Kanawha, Boone, northern Wyoming, and parts of Logan and Mingo counties were delivered to the Department of Tax and Revenue. Considerable stratigraphic database work was accomplished throughout the State. Work proceeded on migration of the stratigraphic database into a more robust network-capable hardware and software environment. Continued effort went into project design, improvement in procedures, acquisition of computer equipment and software, and training. A core hole was drilled with project funds in eastern Barbour County. The work was done in partnership with the mineral owner and an energy company interested in coal-bed methane resources.

Coal-bed Methane--Another potential source of energy and revenue from West Virginia coal is the methane-rich natural gas held within the deeply buried beds. The Survey has actively promoted exploration, assessment, and utilization of coal-bed methane. Geologist and Program Manager K.L. Avary continued to update a summary of data on coal-bed methane wells for the Survey's Web site, and presented a talk summarizing West Virginia activity at the Coal-bed Methane Forum.

Coal Mine Methane--The Appalachian Oil and Natural Gas Research Consortium received a contract from the U.S. Department of Energy (USDOE) in 1995 to conduct research to develop technology to utilize methane-rich natural gas that is currently being liberated due to underground coal mining operations. A research team was organized that included the Survey, West Virginia University (WVU), consulting geologists, a coal company, and a gas storage company. Phase I of the project was initiated in July 1995 and completed during the initial fiscal year. Phase II was then approved, with the Survey's role to select appropriate gas fields as candidates for short-term storage of gas collected from a nearby coal mine. Later in Phase II, however, the project pursued a different technology where gas from a mine would be converted to liquefied natural gas to be used in the transportation sector. After a mine was selected and new partners identified, the Survey's role was to provide subsurface structure maps and mining maps of the mine in question, as well as stratigraphic sections from coal cores from the surface to the floor of the mine. A proposal for Phase III was prepared and accepted for funding by USDOE. During Phase III, the prime contractor will be one of the former subcontractors, who will develop the technology and take it to the marketplace. WVU accepted a reduced role as a subcontractor during Phase III, and the Survey's role was reduced as well. At the end of the fiscal year, a contract has not yet been signed.

Coal Quality--The Applied Coal Resources Investigations Program maintains and regularly enhances a computerized database of the chemical and physical characteristics of West Virginia coals. It is one of the largest public databases of coal quality information in the nation. Since coal is an incredibly variable substance, an understanding of its quality and makeup is highly important to many applications. This database is critical in helping potential customers find the specific West Virginia coal to meet their needs. It is also used to help equipment designers understand the nature and variability of coal for use in heat generation and as chemical feedstock. Policy makers often call on the program's coal quality expertise to gauge the potential effects of legislation on the State's coal industry. This year, additional samples were collected and analyzed, analyses were completed on stored samples, and values in the computer database were verified and/or corrected.

Coal Recoverability Study--This study is a follow-up to the Coal Availability Study to determine how much of the available coal resources in West Virginia are economically recoverable. Mining and coal cleaning losses are deducted form available coal resources, yielding recoverable resources. These in turn are analyzed by mine modeling to determine the economically recoverable reserves. Currently, in a project funded by the U.S. Geological Survey, the study is looking at the possibility of error and bias in the calculation of coal reserves in the Mineral Lands Mapping Program. Geostatistical methods are being used to generate multiple maps that fit observed data, and comparing coal tonnages for representative parcels from these maps with tonnages calculated from the geologists' maps. Results were obtained for three coal beds in two 7.5-minute quadrangles in southern West Virginia, and were published as a professional paper.

Comparison of Mid-Carboniferous Floras--Geologist B.M. Blake, Jr. is participating in a National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded research project to compare mid-Carboniferous fossil plant collections available from eastern Europe and North America to address questions relevant to vegetation responses during onset of a major glacial interval. Findings will be compared with vegetative patterns of change during the Pleistocene. Besides the benefits of increased understanding of vegetative evolution and distribution patterns during the Carboniferous, the work provides the opportunity to heighten public awareness of the severity of climatic oscillations recorded during an earlier period of earth's geologic history and the implications for the present day. W.H. Gillespie, paleobotanist, is also a cooperating scientist on the project. Lead investigators are Dr. H.W. Pfefferkorn of the University of Pennsylvania and Dr. R. Gestaldo, Colby College.

Derivative Map Project--This is a pilot study using geologic data and other information to develop derivative maps to aid in the visualization of geologic hazards and other environmentally-related aspects in the areas of Jefferson and Berkeley counties east of 78 degrees west longitude, in West Virginia's eastern panhandle. Further work is planned as more digital geologic map data becomes available from the Digital Map Compilation Project.

Digital Map Compilation Project--This project will produce geographic information system (GIS) data sets and digital maps of legacy geologic information. Currently, source material is limited to recent 1:24,000-scale published and open-file report maps deemed acceptable for inclusion in the data set. Line work for all maps is initially digitized at a scale of 1:24,000 and then generalized to a scale of 1:100,000 for inclusion in the National Geologic Map Database. Once this work is completed, attributes are assigned to geologic contacts, faults, and bedding orientations, thus completing the process of providing detailed data for inclusion in West Virginia's growing 1:24,000-scale GIS database. To date, 1:100,000-scale digital data is available for 48 7.5-minute quadrangles located in the eastern panhandle. The more detailed 1:24,000-scale work is in progress, supported by matching funds provided by the U.S. Geological Survey's STATEMAP Program. Other work planned in this project includes digital compilation of any remaining acceptable 1:24,000-scale published or open-file report maps, a "maps-on-demand" printing and plotting system, compilation of the 1:250,000-scale West Virginia State Geologic Map, preservation of the 1:62,500-scale county report series geologic maps, and other early agency-published maps.

Geographic Information System (GIS) Technical Support Center at West Virginia University (WVU)--As part of the overall State GIS program, legislative funding was approved for the establishment of a GIS Technical Support Center at WVU, with general administrative oversight provided by the Office of State GIS Coordinator and direct management by WVU. The center is responsible for the archiving, organization, and accessibility to public domain GIS databases created by the Mineral Lands Mapping Program (MLMP) and other State and federal agencies. It serves first in the capacity of a GIS clearinghouse, with training facilities and other services to be added in the future. Metadata, geospatial statistics, socioeconomic modeling, environmental monitoring, and public policy in the information age are among the GIS issues already being addressed by the facility.

Mine Index--The Mine Index is comprised of 7.5-minute topographic quadrangle maps tracking the State's surface and underground mine permits. This open-file database is very useful to coal operators, land owners, equipment salespeople, and many others. A new product in development is a computerized procedure to produce regional location maps of active and inactive mines.

Mineral Lands Mapping Program--The Mineral Lands Mapping Program was initiated in 1995 as a pilot project to demonstrate the capabilities of geographic information system (GIS) technology within State government. The program is to redefine the process by which mineral resources in West Virginia, especially coal property, are evaluated and assessed for taxation purposes. The program uses the emerging computer technology of GIS in order to accomplish its goals and serves as the "GIS pilot project" for the State as proposed in the 1993 Plangraphics GIS Development Plan. The program's legislative mandate also states that progress be reported to county tax assessors. With this program, West Virginia takes a lead role in applying GIS to natural resource assessment in the U.S. The program is unique in concept and vision and represents the most complex and comprehensive data development effort ever attempted within the public sector of state government to map geological and natural resource holdings. The program is a collaborative partnership between the West Virginia Department of Tax and Revenue, Property Tax Division (DTR); the West Virginia University GIS Technical Support Center (WVU); and the West Virginia Geological and Economic Survey. The Survey has overall fiscal and managerial oversight of the program. Each partner agency is responsible for data development and project management corresponding to its particular jurisdiction and expertise. The Survey manages the Coal-bed Mapping Project. DTR administers the cadastral mapping and creation of the parcel database and will create the linkages to existing DTR assessment systems. WVU is responsible for creation of the GIS data layers to which the parcel and coal-bed maps will be geographically referenced. In addition to general program oversight, the Office of Statewide GIS Coordinator is responsible for coordinating data development activities with other local, State, and federal entities which will feedback into the work of the program. Auxiliary input from numerous other parties (including coal companies, county tax assessors, and other government agencies) will strengthen and promote the program as it matures over the course of the next several years. The maps, GIS coverages, and databases generated will contribute significant added value to a wide range of information useful to others outside of the program.

National Coal Resources Data System (NCRDS)--For over a decade, the Survey has received grants from the U.S. Geological Survey's NCRDS program to build the West Virginia portion of a national computerized database dedicated to coal information. This database is used for a variety of investigations including the Coal Availability Study, but its use is not limited to cooperative federal projects. Data acquisition, entry into Survey computer databases, and verification by Applied Coal Resources Investigations Program personnel are ongoing processes. Non-confidential data are uploaded to the NCRDS periodically. Stratigraphic database work accomplished under this effort directly benefits the Coal-bed Mapping Project. Additional funds were also added to the Survey's cooperative agreement in support of the U.S. Geological Survey's Overburden Characterization for Prediction of Acid Mine Drainage Program. Funds were designated for core drilling and for XRD and XRF analyses from the laboratory at the West Virginia University Department of Geology and Geography. A core hole was drilled in southern Boone County as part of this project. Funds were also added to begin determination of the trace element content of these core samples.

Petroleum Technology Transfer Council Project in the Appalachian Basin--The result of a cost-shared effort by the U.S. Department of Energy (USDOE) and the petroleum industry to identify technical problems and their solutions in the production of oil and natural gas, the Petroleum Technology Transfer Council (PTTC) selected the National Research Center for Coal and Energy (NRCCE) at West Virginia University (WVU) to assist producers in the Appalachian basin region with production-related problems. The original five-year program was extended until May 2003. Goals for this fiscal year were to continue to develop and host focused technology workshops; continue a program of active outreach to build name recognition; and expand and add value to the regional homepage on the Internet, including and on-line newsletter and an interactive geographic information system containing information on wells of particular interest (coal-bed methane, directional, historic, and new Trenton). The Survey participates in this program with the expertise and resources of its geologists and staff, and staff members played important roles in each of these areas. The PTTC hosted or co-hosted 10 workshops during the year, including cooperative ventures with the Kentucky Geological Survey, the Ohio Geological Society, the Ohio Geological Survey, as well as the WVU departments of Geology and Geography, and Petroleum and Natural Gas Engineering. The Ordovician Trenton and Black River exploration targets were the subject of a workshop organized by WVU's Department of Geology and Geography, as well as a workshop organized by the Ohio Geological Survey and the Ohio Geological Society, and a core workshop/field trip organized by the Kentucky Geological Survey. Geologist and Program Head K.L. Avary assisted with most of these workshops, and maintained the database of all attendees at PTTC-sponsored functions to be used for future mailings. Outreach consisted of setting up a PTTC exhibit at various meetings and giving talks at numerous oil and gas meetings. A talk outlining the PTTC program and information available at the Regional Resource Center was presented to the Appalachian Geological Society. Exhibits were set up at the Eastern Section, American Association of Petroleum Geologists annual meeting, the Eastern Region meeting of the Society of Petroleum Engineers, and the Independent Oil and Gas Association meetings of New York, Tennessee, and Virginia. The regional PTTC Web site was further expanded by Geologists R.R. McDowell and M.E. Hohn. Major additions were a quarterly, on-line newsletter and adoption of a standard format for the site. Other articles were written and sent to the editors of each of the oil and gas newsletters in the basin.

Preferred Upstream Management Practices Project--The purposes of this U.S. Department of Energy-funded project are to identify preferred management practices (PMPs) currently in use in the Appalachian region; create an Appalachian Region PMP Council for future identification of PMPs; and set up an interactive Web site listing PMPs for the region as well as supporting data and relevant information on the oil reservoirs in the Appalachian region. The Web site will include case histories and a database of reservoir types, types and scales of heterogeneity, and PMPs. Work accomplished in the first nine months included an initial workshop held to identify problems in oil well drilling, completion, and production; the start of a literature search for preferred practices; and creation of a mailing list of geologists and engineers to interview.

Reservoir Characterization--During the year, work continued on a research contract between the U.S. Department of Energy (USDOE) and the West Virginia University (WVU) Research Corporation which assigned the contract to the Appalachian Oil and Natural Gas Research Consortium (AONGRC). The research team consists of the Survey and the WVU Department of Petroleum and Natural Gas Engineering (PNGE), both AONGRC partners. The project, which is designed to characterize the Gordon sandstone reservoir in the Jacksonburg-Stringtown oil field, Tyler and Wetzel counties, is one of nine selected by USDOE to enhance understanding of the fundamental makeup of American oil reservoirs. The three-year project is in a field currently being water-flooded by the operator in an attempt to recover additional oil not produced during primary production. Some production and injection problems have been reported by the operator, and the project team will attempt to provide insight into the cause of these problems. Detailed core descriptions, wireline log correlations, and direct measurement of permeability of the cores were all used to create maps and cross-sections of the field and interpret the distribution of "pay" sandstones within the field both vertically and laterally. Cumulative primary oil production correlates very well with the distribution of the pay sandstones. The PNGE team used a neural network to model fluid flow in the field and reached similar conclusions about the distribution of pay sandstones. A Petroleum Technology Transfer Council workshop summarized the results of this project. The research team is managed by Chief Geologist D.G. Patchen. Geologists K.L. Avary, M.E. Hohn, D.L. Matchen, and R.R. McDowell are the Survey's project team.

Rome Trough Consortium--The Survey became a member of this consortium, which was formed with the Kentucky and Ohio geological surveys. The consortium is supported by the U.S. Department of Energy and several operating companies. The goal of the consortium is to compile a regional stratigraphic framework of the Cambrian and Ordovician rocks throughout the three-state area. In addition, data on all wells that have penetrated these rocks are being compiled. This will provide improved understanding of the deeper potential for gas or oil production. The Survey supplied digitized data for all West Virginia wells which penetrated the basement, and data about these wells for the project.

STATEMAP Geologic Mapping--The purpose of this U.S. Geological Survey annually-funded, competitive grant program is to produce high-quality geologic maps. Three mapping project proposals were approved for funding this year. Two of three mapping projects slated for completion in 2002 were finished and the third was given a no-cost extension to autumn 2002. Geologists R.R. McDowell, K.L. Avary, and D.L. Matchen are principal investigators in bedrock mapping and geochemical sampling of the Circleville and Thornwood 7.5-minute quadrangles, Pendleton, Pocahontas, and Randolph counties and Highland County, Virginia. Using geochemical analysis for all samples collected during STATEMAP reconnaissance, a stratigraphic geochemical database was compiled and is available to the public.

Wileyville Oil Field Research--The Survey became a member of the Stripper Well Consortium (SWC) at Pennsylvania State University. The SWC is designed to fund research related to oil and gas reservoirs which produce at low rates. Almost all of West Virginia's producing oil and gas wells are classified as stripper wells. The Survey's proposal to the SWC to study the Gordon sandstone in the Wileyville oil field, Wetzel County, was selected for funding. The knowledge gained about the nature of the Gordon in the nearby Jacksonburg-Stringtown oil field during the Reservoir Characterization project is being used to evaluate the Gordon in the Wileyville field. Wileyville is currently being water-flooded by the operator. More water was injected into the field than was estimated to have been produced during primary oil production which indicates that the reservoir is heterogeneous and not well understood. This year-long project will conclude in May 2003. Data for the field were acquired from the operator; digitizing of wireline logs and description of the cores was completed; permeabilty data were acquired from the cores using the minipermeater; maps of reservoir properties were created; and permeability and other petrophysical properties of the reservoir were analyzed and modeled.

Recent Research Publications--(bold names denote Survey staff)

Avary, K.L., 2002, Recent drilling activity in the Upper Ordovician Trenton-Black River Limestone, West Virginia and New York: Eastern Section AAPG annual meeting abstracts, p. 11.

Avary, K.L., 2001, Recent gas discoveries and activity in the Ordovician Trenton/Black River in West Virginia: AAPG Bulletin, vol. 85, no. 8, p. 1,530.

Avary, K.L., and D.G. Patchen, 2002, New life in an old basin: The Upper Ordovician Trenton-Black River Limestone, Appalachian Basin, USA: 2002 AAPG Annual Convention, March 10-13, 2002, Official Program, vol. 11, p. A10.

Blake, B.M., Jr., A.T. Cross, C.F. Eble, W.H. Gillespie, and H.W. Pfefferkorn, 2002. Selected plant megafossils from the Carboniferous of the Appalachian region, eastern United States: Geographic and stratigraphic distribution: in L.V. Hills, C.M.. Henderson, and W. Bamber (eds.), Carboniferous and Permian of the World, Proceedings XIV International Congress on Carboniferous and Permian Stratigraphy (Calgary, 1999), Canadian Society of Petroleum Geologists, memoir 19, p. 259-335.

Curriero, F.C., M.E.Hohn, A.M. Liebhold, and S.R. Lele, 2002, A statistical evaluation of non-ergodic variogram in estimators: Environmental and Ecological Statistics, vol. 9, no. 1, p. 89-110.

Dulong, F.T., C.B. Cecil, and N. Fedorko, 2001, Chemical affinities of iron and manganese in Pennsylvanian coal-bearing strata in the central Appalachian basin: Implications for contaminated mine drainage (abstract): Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, vol. 33, p. A-416.

Fedorko, N., 2002, Creation of geographic information system(GIS)-based coal geology maps in West Virginia: Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, vol. 34, p. A-18.

Fedorko, N., K.J. Hutchinson, and F.L. Hutchinson, 2002, Application of geographic information system(GIS)-based coal geology maps in West Virginia: Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, vol. 34, p. A-102-103.

Gooding, S.E., 2002, Interactive coal-bed mapping on the internet (abstract): Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, vol. 34, p. A-19.

Hemler, D.A., 2001, West Virginia Through Geologic Time: West Virginia Geological and Economic Survey, publication ED-14, computer diskette.

Hohn, M.E. and R.R. McDowell, 2001, Stochastic simulation of coal-bed thickness and economic decision-making variogram: in D.F. Merriam and J.C. Davis (eds.), Geologic Modeling and Simulation: Sedimentary Systems, Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers, New York, p. 271-283. Kolker, A., C.B. Cecil, F.T. Dulong, and N. Fedorko, 2001, Effect of pyrite composition, texture, and form on acid mine drainage potential in coal-bearing strata of the central Appalachian basin (abstract): Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, vol. 33, p. A-416.

Legendre, P., M.R.T. Dale, M.J. Fortin, J. Gurevitch, M.E. Hohn, and D. Myers, 2002. The consequences of spatial structure for the design and analysis of ecological field surveys: Ecography, vol. 25, p. 601-615.

Matchen, D.L., 2002, Lower Mississippian stratigraphy of the Appalachian Basin: Unresolved lithostratigraphic and biostratigraphic problems (absract): Geological Society of America, Abstracts with Programs, vol. 34, n. 2, p. 86.

McColloch, G.H., Jr., and W.C. Grady, 2002, Developing a modern system to analyze coal quality data in West Virginia: Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, vol. 34, p. A-103.

McDowell, R.R., (compiler), 2001, Stratigraphic Geochemical Database for Portions of Pendleton County, West Virginia and Adjacent Virginia Counties, Covering Portions of Pendleton County, West Virginia, Highland County, Virginia, and Augusta County, Virginia: West Virginia Geological and Economic Survey, publication RI-34, computer diskette.

McDowell, R.R., K.L. Avary, D.L. Matchen, R. Diecchio, F.A. Rutledge, and H.E. McCoy, 2001, Preliminary Bedrock Geologic Map of the Snowy Mountain Quadrangle: West Virginia Geological and Economic Survey, publication OF0101, 1:24,000 scale.

McDowell, R.R., K.L. Avary, D.L. Matchen, R. Diecchio, F.A. Rutledge, and H.E. McCoy, 2001, Preliminary Bedrock Geologic Map of the Spruce Knob Quadrangle: West Virginia Geological and Economic Survey, publication OF0102, 1:24,000 scale.

Murphy, S.J. and T.W. Kammer, 2001, Influence of the West Virginia Dome on paleocurrent patterns of the Upper Devonian-Lower Mississippian Price Formation in the central Appalachians (abstract): American Association of Petroleum Geologists Bulletin, vol. 85, p. 1537.

Repine, T.E., Jr., (ed.), 2002 (revision), Earth Science Activities: West Virginia Geological and Economic Survey, publication ED-13, 78 p.

Repine, T.E., Jr., 2002, Reconstructing the geologic time line: The Science Teacher, April, p. 32-35.

Ruppert, L.F., S.J. Tewalt,, L.J. Bragg, G.A. Weisenfluh, E.E. Thacker, B.M. Blake, Jr., R.S. Sites, P.A. Freeman, D.T. Butler, L.C. Bryant, and D.T. Butler, 2001, Chapter G, A digital resource model of the Middle Pennsylvanian Pond Creek coal zone, Pottsville Group, central Appalachian basin coal region, in Northern and Central Appalachian Basin Coal Regions Assessment Team (eds.), 2000 Resource Assessment of Selected Coal Beds and Zones in the Northern and Central Appalachian Basin Coal Regions, U.S. Geological Survey, professional paper 1625-C.

Rutledge, F.A., H.E. McCoy, K.L. Avary, D.L. Matchen, and R.R. McDowell, 2002, Preliminary investigation of new exposures of Upper Devonian strata, Elkins, West Virginia (abstract): Geological Society of America, Abstracts with Programs, vol. 34, no. 2, p. 86.

WVGES Welcome Page  News Menu  West Virginia Geology 

Page last revised: July 20, 2004

Valid XHTML 1.0!