Re: Canadian Coal - unanswered questions

From: Bill Payne <>
Date: Mon Apr 12 2004 - 02:23:30 EDT

Sorry for the delay in responding, Kevin. You've got me very stretched
out - which is good, and I appreciate your challenges.

On Wed, 17 Mar 2004 22:24:43 -0700 "Kevin Sharman" <>

> 1. No coal in DeeP marine CLASTIC sediments, LIMESTONES, ETC.
> This one was brought up early on by Glenn and myself, and has not been
> answered by you.

There is coal associated with limestones in Kentucky (Kentucky No. 12
coal) and Illinois (Jamestown coal), and I have a paper on coal
interbedded with limestone in China. As for deep marine sediments, there
is disseminated carbon in deep ocean sediments, which is consistent with
what I have told Glenn - that organic mats in the deep ocean would not
form coal, they would break up with the wave action and settle out as
finely disseminated particles. More on limestone below.

> 2. low sulphur coals - need fresh water - mechanism?
> You say you're not worried about this issue, because no one really
> what might have happened during the Flood. This appeal to unknown
> sounds like an "anything goes, and I don't need data to back it up"
> approach.

The data is what it is. What I have said is that if enough rain fell in
interior basins it would push the salt water out. You wanted to know how
much rain it would take. You are correct in saying that I don't have
data to back this up. However, what I am saying is consistent with
Scripture, so this is not "anything goes." You don't accept Scripture
and I understand that, but if the Bible is even halfway true, then there
have been events for which we have no modern analog. I understand your
position and your inability to grasp the possibility of massive rain
events. From my perspective, low-sulphur coals are supporting evidence
of high-rainfall events. For you low-sulphur coals are evidence of
freshwater swamps. We each have an explanation supporting our favored
model; neither model is trumped by low-sulphur coal.

> 3. pre-flood peat accumulation rate
> How do you account for the vast thicknesses of peat/veg material which
> be needed to make all the seams from floating mats, if those layers
> ripped up intact (bound together with roots)?

That's a good question. To generate and stockpile enough organics to
make all of the world's coal in a short time might require most of the
present continental surfaces to be swamps for thousands of years.
Assuming a 10,000 year-old earth, that would push the pre-Flood boundary
back into the PreCambrian since much of the continental geology has
marine limestones below the coals. IOW, continental areas now underlain
with marine sediments of Cambrian/Ordovician age were not producing
swamps during that time. If I say that the floating mats were themselves
producing organics during the Cambrian/Ordovician, or even if they were
just floating during a global flood, then I would think some of the
organics would settle down into the Cambrian/Ordovician limestones, which
I don't think we see - which leads me to believe that the floating mats
may have originated (going from in situ to floating mats) after the

Glenn posted the following, indicating that there is no vitrine or
vitrinite in the pre-Devonian oils:
ASA - April 1998: Re: Coal and theYEC position

"I consulted a friend and former co-worker, Harold Illich, a geochemist
the origin of vitrine which is the major component of vitrain coal. He
a message on my answering machine responding to my message on his
machine. At 7:56 this morning he told me that vitrine which is the
component of vitrinite and vitrain coal is not just from wood or reeds.
Instead, it is from all the higher plants, and is associated with the
of the structural molecules of the higher plants.

So, Harold confirms what I wrote in my note of Wed, 15 Apr 1998 20:16:03

>>>Now, it is true that some vitrinite or vitrain is coalified wood. But
vitrinite also occurs in the oil and this is where I deal with it.
Vitrinite is a product of the decay of organic matter. Oils sourced from
Cambrian or Ordovician shales have no vitrinite in them (a fact itself
is contrary to a global flood hypothesis since there should have been
terrestrial plants in the pre-flood world). But post devonian oils all
vitrinite in them.

So, while you may be correct that a given coal or a given area has coals
predominantly associated with bark or wood, it is not necessary that the
coal came from wood unless there is preserved wood in the coal.
Unfortunately most coals show no microscopic structure.<<<<"

If I understand correctly what Glenn said, the pre-Devonian oils were
from animal remains rather than plant. This would at least suggest
strongly that there were no floating mats prior to the Devonian. This
may be indirect evidence that the Flood started after the Devonian.
Prior to this time, land plants grew and remained on the land. Marine
animals (and lower plants, as I understand from Glenn) died and
eventually became oil. During the Flood land plants were incorporated
into sediments for the first time, and vitrinite was introduced into the
resulting, post-Devonian oil.

> 4. piling up of vegetation mats - shoreline?
> You said that loose vegetation could pile up, and gave a modern example
> where vegetation bunched up against a shoreline. No reply from you
when I
> asked if that meant that there were shorelines during the Flood to
> for all coal deposited with so-called Flood rocks.

Of course we have no idea what the mats looked like, but I would venture
to say that the organic mats were root-bound to begin with (ripped up
intact), and therefore didn't need to be "piled up."

> 5. detailed mechanism for parting and interseam sediment deposition
> You have avoided this one repeatedly. First it was turbidites, then
> sub-aqueous deposits that may be turbidites, now it's settling from
> suspension. No mechanism, references, or modern analogues.

If, by your own admission, I have offered three explanations, then it is
not true that I "have avoided this one repeatedly." I will respond to
this one in detail, but in a separate post since this one is long and
primarily concerns Canadian coal. It may take me a while to develop that
post, but I will get it done.

> 6. channels in interseam sediments
> This one needs a special variation on your turbidite theme, which you
> not provided.

Subaqueous channels in either interseam sediments or coal can be cut by
turbidity currents (see below - Stokes' law), as I think I have stated.
I don't understand why you say I need a "special variation" here.

> 7. ash layers beneath floating mats
> This one needs an extra-special variation on your turbidite theme,
which you
> have not provided. You need to provide a credible reason why an ash
> would not be mixed by a high energy event like a turbidity current. I
> commented recently on the drifting and settling that you recently
proposed -
> I don't think that's the answer either.

As I was recently walking out into the edge of a swamp to uproot some
plants to see if they really have roots that grow down (they do), I
noticed that the mud I stirred up began to spread laterally - not due to
diffusion (there was a sharp boundary between the turbid and clear
water), but because of the higher specific gravity of the turbid water as
compared to the clear water. I stood and watched as the turbid cloud
spread laterally. After about 15 minutes the water in a semicircle for
about 10 to 15 feet out from the bank from where I had been standing was
turbid. There was no flow in the swamp, the water was stagnant. There
would be no erosion from this turbid drift, nor would there be any
sorting or grading bedding when the turbidity settled.

Tell me again why fine particles controlled by Stokes Law would not drift
over large areas, carried by gentle currents present in the water or
pushed by their own higher specific gravity, as they slowly settled out
of suspension.

> 8. Petrology - inertinite, segregation
> No comment from you on the petrology post, where I showed that
> was from oxidation of the peat, which would not happen underwater, and
> segregation of inertinite rich layers in coal seams could not be
> by floating mat deposition.

"Studies of ash falls in Cretaceous coals of the western United States
show that the ash increased the pH of the water in the peat mire, causing
an increase in inertinite just below the ash layer. These Cretaceous ash
layers also appear to have created semi-impermeable layers that caused
local ponding of water... A similar situation appears to have occurred
in the Fire Clay coal. ...and the fact that interinites also commonly
increase beneath the jackrock parting in the Fire Clay coal may justify
the comparison." (Greb et al, Geology of the Fire Clay coal in part of
the eastern Kentucky coal field, Kentucky Geological Survey Report of
Investigations 2, Series XII, 1999, pp 31-32)

Can you please explain why inertinite cannot form underwater, when it
appears that the inertinite described by Greb et al above did form

I have seen debates over the origin of fusain, as to whether it is the
result of fire or other processes. I'm really not qualified to comment
on your petrology post, other than to say that the origin of these
various features may not be as open and shut as you believe.

In the 1950s Schultz published a paper on the origin of underclay being
sedimentary, not weathered subaerially. Geologists have told me that
Schultz' work is now discredited by further research. For instance, they
say that more accurate and detailed analysis of the clay profile does
show subdued weathering vertically. My thinking is that acid water in
the overlying coal would cause the same weathering effect diagenetically.
  Same result, but very different process to get there. I know diagenesis
doesn't include weathering, but you understand my use of the term here.

The best I can do with your petrology post is to say that it is heavy on
interpretation, and there may be another explanation not apparent to
investigators with only one model to use as a framework for

> 9. large intervals of multiple layers of vertical roots in the Gates
> Formation, alternating with thick coal seams.
> No comments.

As I said, I have been visiting swamps to check for the depth of roots of
grasses, shrubs and trees. What I have found is not good news for your
delicate partings in coal. I have photos of a clump of grass growing in
a swamp with a root mass about 6 inches wide and 5 inches deep. I have a
photo of a cypress tree from the swamp in Moundville, Alabama with as
much or more root mass below the substrate as it had trunk/limb mass
above the substrate. I have photos of two more trees from a swamp south
of Gadsden, Alabama where the vertical depth of roots was about equal to
the height of the tree. One tree had roots 26 inches below the substrate
and above the substrate the trunk was 26 inches tall. I recently read
that the production of organic mass by tree roots often equals or exceeds
the mass produced by the trees above ground. I will forward the photos
to you and to anyone else who requests them, offline, since I don't think
we can post photos here. I may have to forward these over several
separate times since I don't know if Juno will limit the size of these
attachments, and I don't want to overload your mail box.

Again, as I have said before, sparse, whimpy shrub and grass roots
(weren't there a couple of posts with the subject line "Whimpy Roots"?)
are not sufficient to create a peat mat capable of supporting heavy trees
and preventing the tree roots from penetrating vertically into the
mineral substrate. In fact, the roots of large, well-spaced trees, such
as we see in modern swamps, must penetrate the substrate for two reasons:
         A) Roots are strong in tension but weak in compression. If the
tree roots were only on the peat surface except for an occasional
vertical root as you contend, the tree would not be able to stand - there
would be no tensional strength since the roots would not be anchored in
the substrate, and there would be no compressional strength to resist the
tendency for the tree to topple because roots are not strong in
compression. IOW, if a tree was trying to fall to the east, then the
roots on the west side of the tree would be put into tension and the
roots on the east side of the tree would be put into compression. Any
light wind would blow the tree over, especially if it was over 20 feet
tall, which many Pennsylvanian trees were.
         B) Trees must have access to nutrients, which normally come from
mineral substrates. Trees with roots limited to peat deposits are
stunted because of the lack of nutrients. "When the bog had reached
stage 4 of the model, sea level had again risen, the storm berm has also
risen, and the raised bog encroached over most of the basin. The
hardwood community is presently found only near borders where high
nutrient levels are present." [Cameron, CC, Esterle, JS and Palmer, CA.
The geology, botany and chemistry of selected peat-forming environments
from temperate and tropical latitudes. International Journal of Coal
Geology, 12 (1989) 115]

Also look at slide 4 on my ppt CD, which clearly shows large trees in the
intertidal zone where water can bring nutrients to the roots, and stunted
trees in the domed mire center (low ash/low sulphur). Vertical grass,
shrub and tree roots are a fact of life, even in standing water, and you
simply don't have enough of them to support your model.

We have had a lot of discussion about vertical roots, with me saying they
could be transported and buried vertically in sand (which I wasn't
comfortable with), or they could be an opportunistic growth spurt before
being buried. You responded that deposition of a high-energy sand would
not deposit all roots vertically, and the growth spurts would require
exposure to the air each time a root horizon is found, and there is not
enough time in the YEC time frame for that process. I tend to agree with
you on both counts. Another possibility I haven't mentioned is that the
plants or seeds were buried alive and began to grow, sinking roots down
vertically and attempting to push up to light, which is what normally
happens when a seed is buried. This would explain vertical roots in
high-energy sand, and explain why the root zone is not well developed
(why the roots are sparse rather than intensely rooted). The burial rate
could be relatively fast and continuous; the seeds and plants would sink
roots down even though they were already too deeply buried to ever
flourish. This would also explain the rooted core on Glenn's website,
within a short time frame.

> 10. vertical zonation of plant types, pollen, spores
> No comments.

This vertical (and horizontal) zonation is consistent with an organic mat
ripped up intact. Any vertical zonation will be said by you to be
evidence of plant succession; I would say it is evidence of zonation
inherent in the floating mat, or a succession of mats.

> 11. vertical zonation of vertebrates
> You commented that it provided strong evidence for evolution, and that
> would like to keep your mind open to all the possibilities. No
> of how this would happen in a floating mat/Flood scenario.

I'm not sure this is related to coal, but you are correct, I have no
rational explanation at this time. I have ordered a book edited by Kurt
Wise: _Faith, Form and Time_, which may deal with this question. Once I
read it, I will let you know if there are any answers there to this

> 12. Stokes Law
> You commented that unknown and unconsidered variables may alter and/or
> invalidate Stokes Law. No comment when I asked what the unconsidered
> variables would be, and no explanation of why the observed data in
seams is
> inconsistent with Stokes Law settling.

We had some discussion about acidic water causing flocculation. You
responded (17 March 04) by saying that this occurs mainly with clays,
since they are electrically charged:
"Pure claystone partings are rare anyways; there is normally a lot of
silt. Silt particles don't flocculate to any great extent, because they
carry surface electrical charges like clays."
To check what you said, I took two 40-ml vials, one with HCl and one
plain, and filled them both with turbid (very dark gray) water from a
monitoring well I was purging to sample. I shook them both to get all of
the particles into suspension, then set them side-by-side with a stop
watch. I have a series of photos, that show the settling rates of each
bottle, which I will forward to you (and anyone else that requests them).
  From the photos you can see that both bottles are equally turbid after 1
minute 6 seconds. After 7 m 0 s the acidified bottle was only slightly
turbid, while the non-acidified bottle had only begun to clear. At 20 m
and also at 40 m both bottles are almost clear, with only slightly more
turbidity in the non-acidified bottle. When allowed to sit for several
days, both bottles clear completely.

An interesting side note, if these bottles are tipped bottom up at about
a 45 degree angle, the sediment will form a turbidity current and flow
down the slope of the side of the bottle. This is an example of the same
currents that broke trans-Atlantic cables in 1929

The question is whether non-clay particles are subject to flocculation.
The "Time to Settle in Dispersion Test" of various particles is as
follows: sandy silt - 30 sec to 60 min; silt - 15 min to 60 min; clay -
several hours to days (from Peck et at, _Foundation Engineering_, 1974, p
7). Since nearly all particles in the experiment I ran had settled in 20
minutes, we may conclude that none of these particles which had settled
were clay. Since there is a marked difference in the settling rate of
acidified vs. non-acidified slurries, we may conclude that silt is
subject to accelerated settling in acidified water. Therefore, Stokes'
law cannot be applied based strictly upon particle size but must also
consider the pH of the water. I would suspect the degree of salinity may
also affect settling rates; I'll try to repeat the experiment with
distilled and salt water, and high pH vs. normal water to see if there is
any difference in the settling rates of these slurries.

> Bill, rather than moving on to details of Paleozoic coals, how about
if you
> answer these leftover questions for Cretaceous coals? You can then
> all but # 9 for your Pennsylvanian coals. These all refute your
> mat scenario; so it's no wonder you have not answered them for
> coals. Unless you are willing to address these questions, I don't see
> there is much point in going further.

The partings post is my next project. Thanks for your patience.

Received on Wed Apr 21 21:05:36 2004

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