Coal deposit thickness and how this could form over millions of years without contamination from slow sedimentation

I was doing some googling and i noticed that one of the thickest known coal seams is in Wyoming and is claimed to be in the order of 800 feet thick.

Australia has some very thick coal seams, notably a 330m one is Gippsland Victoria.

So my question is this…

if some of these seams of coal are that thick, how do we justify the idea that a 330m coal seam found in sedimentary rock deposits can form over a long period of time? Isn’t the seam going to be contaminated with other substances…such as plain old dirt?

Also, lets go further…what about oil fields. How thick are some of the really big ones. For example Petronas discovered a large field off Brazil “4-BRSA-1386D-RJS well in the pre-salt Sépia oil field”…its down 2km, but i wonder…how does the organic matter suddenly appear such that an oil field can also form in millions of years without contamination?

Sedimentary deposits seem to me to indicate a rapid event locking away this kind of matter quickly so that we can end up with coal seams 300m thick.

I’m not sure why you think these seams of coal and deposits of oil are pristine and uncontaminated. In any case, you shouldn’t have brought up the subject. I have to direct you to our deceased friend Glenn Morton, @gbob, on the subject.

Some more from that thread:

The geologic data simply doesn’t support a young earth. Throughout out the geologic column, are burrows. There is one formation which which concerned me greatly, the Haymond formation of west Texas. It consists of about 15000 layers of sand and shale

“Two thirds of the Haymond is composed of a repititious alternation of fine- and very fine-grained olive brown sandstone and black shale in beds from a millimeter to 5 cm thick. The formation is estimated to have more than 15,000 sandstone beds greater than 5 mm thick.” p. 87.
"Tool-mark casts (chiefly groove casts), flute casts and flute-lineation casts are common current-formed sole marks. Trace fossils in the form of sand-filled burrows are present on every sandstone sole, but nearly absent within sandstone beds. ~ Earle F. McBride,“Stratigraphy and Sedimentology of the Haymond Formation,” in Earle F. McBride, Stratigraphy, Sedimentary Structures and Origin of Flysch and Pre-Flysch Rocks, Marathon Basin, Texas (Dallas: Dallas Geological Society, 1969), p. 87-88

Give each layer 1 day for recolonization of burrowers the deposit would require 41 years. Haymond formation is about 1300 m and the entire geologic column is about 5000 m thick. If it was deposited by Noah flood then the math would be like this: 1300/5000*326=95 days this means 157 couplets / day. with burrows. Each day 157 times, one must have shale laid down, worms burrow into the shale and have the sand come in and fill in the burrows with sand, and the worms are never seen escaping the sand-catastrophe, so the next layer of shale must be laid down, worms burrow into it and sand fill those burrows, over and over for 95 days. There are NO shale filled burrows into the sand.

This seems impossible to do given the turbulence of the global flood. Below is what the formation looks like and notice after it solidified (diagenesis takes more than a year) it was uplifted and turned on its end.

Adam, you really need to grapple with the facts and stop looking for loopholes. Glenn’s next post in that thread was a master class. I’ll just drop it here “as-is” without block quotes:

From the Cambrian, the lowest level of generally fossiliferous rock (yes I know there are Precambrian fossils, but young earthers generally say the fossiliferous sediments were deposited by the Flood.

Let’s consider one thing before we go further, the thickness of the fossiliferous rocks. I did a paper with another geophysicist and we proved from gravity and seismic that 200 miles south of New Orleans there were 50,000 feet of sediment. She did other work and showed under New Orleans, where the Missisippi River has been dumping sediment for more than 200 million years, there is 75,000 feet of sedimentary rock. But even a modest 36,500 ft thickness, which is not uncommon, requires 100 feet per day of average deposition during the flood. As you look at the pictures, ask yourself why there at these rates of deposition why all the fossils are not found at the bottom of the flood? Ask yourself how they had time to make theses tracks. From below are oldest to youngest, (lowest to highest in geologic column.

From the Cambrian, worm tracks, and ripples. this is shallow water.

From the Pennsylvanian,


Triassic. A dinosaur walked into a still body of water. How do I know it is still water? Rapidly running water would wash his prints away immediately. this isn’t the flood. There are rain drops on the shore. Remember, this layer lies above several thousand feet of supposedly flood deposited sediment, so this isn’t the start of the flood.

Mesozoic age. A horseshoe crab had time to peacefully die as he walked in a spiral, slowly dying. this was not a rapid death by the flood.

From the Paleocene, Ducks nibbled their dinner as if nothing special were happening.

And all the while these animals are living their life as if no flood is going on, Plants are growing in sediments which are in the middle of the flood deposited fossil sediments
Contrary to claims that there are no roots under coal, I will show you two cases, one from Canada and one from the US. both show the roots of plants which formed coal. The plant matter wasn’t washed in as YECs claim. The first is from the Cretaceous of the US, the second two are from the Cretaceous in Canada. Both show plants acting like there was no flood.

Edited to add, It took me a while to find the source of the picture below. I got a pic of this from a friend I worked with. Here is what I wrote about it before. It is from the Cretaceous not the Pennsylvanian, so I edited that to fix it as well, Often the claim is made that the entire geologic column was deposited in a huge catastrophe which lasted only 1 year. There is much evidence that the geologic column took a long time to be deposited. A core taken from the Murfin Drilling Co. Colorado State No. 1-16 well at the end of 1983 showed about 250 successive layers of roots in a 3-foot length of core. Below is a small part of the core which shows the roots and the layers that they truncate into. Each layer represents one year of growth. This core represents about 10 years worth of growth. The data from this core is inconsistent with the concept that the geologic column was rapidly deposited. I must emphasize that this coal was found in the middle of the geologic column there in Colorado below several thousand feed of sediment. My friend said he nicked this piece from the core cause he found it so interesting and they were looking for oil, not coal. lol


I will show that worms, clionid sponges etc are doing their thing, burrowing into rocks and sediments later.


Okay - I’ve seen Gbob’s stuff before - and it’s pretty impressivlely conclusive. But can anybody help me out here with how his arithmetic worked?

That arithmetic would round to 85 instead of 95 - which doesn’t really affect the conclusion - I know. But I’m also not sure where the “157 couplets” number came from either. It all seems like simple enough math, and yet I’m having trouble interpreting it, which is my bigger issue at the moment.

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You think that deposits can form in one year, but not form in millions, because they are thick???


coal deposits form because a great deal of vegetation has been buried and subjected to pressures and various processes that over prolonged periods form the coal deposits we observe. There are always ‘contaminants’, within coal seams (these form ash when the coal is burnt), and interseem layers of clays, minerals and other. The various grades of coal also are the result of different periods (many million years), so that hard coal has formed over longer periods than soft coal and brown coal (peat is younger still).


It frequently is, as evidenced by the fact that a lot of coal ash contains stone grit.

Coal has an interesting origin: it’s the result of millennia upon millennia of lush plant life before there were organisms that could digest cellulose. The stuff piled up and decayed very slowly, becoming a kind of peat. Pet bogs can get amazingly thick, and when buried deeply enough the heat and pressure turns it to coal.


Those look amazingly like what some of the tide flats look like in the bay here when I go clamming!


Im so sure about that…because that point has already been addressed by YEC using statements from Macquaker, J.H.S. and Bohacs, K.M., On the accumulation of mud, Science 318 (5857):1734–1735, 2007, where it is found that mud can form in such conditions and at a much higher water flow rate than the “still water” previously claimed was possible. This is contradictory to your position and i think raises inconsistency and doubt, however, it provides supporting evidence for the global flood narrative.

I accept that the majority vote is overwhelming at present, however, i reiterate a point i have made before on these forums…Elijah didnt find God in the wild wind, the earthquake, or the lightning whilst hiding in the cave after running from Jezebel. He heard a still small voice and immediately recognised that as coming from God. The significant thing about the story of Elijah here is that one must ask “why didnt he find God in the grandeur of an earthquake, wind, or lightning and how did he know the still small voice was God?”

I seek the still small voice because I do not find God in the grandeur or secularism and its interpretations stemming from a position of “there is no God”. If i am to follow their interpretations and these interpretations conflict with scripture, then I am no longer Christian.

Also, your other illustrations of dinosaurs after the flood, ducks eating, animals dying peacefully…i dont see the relevance of any of that. Are you saying YEC claim dinosaurs all died out in the flood? Im not aware of that claim. Is extinction a flood only event…if so, what flood wiped out the Tasmanian tigers?

Adam. Your Elijah story doesn’t register at all among the huge amount of evidence and conclusions of non-religious geologic history. You’re good at raising very interesting questions and providing some rabbit hole intrigue, but in the end, science wins. And it will, always.

The problem is that missing from your statement is a phrase that should precede the word “scripture”: ‘my modernistic reading of’.


Adam, here is a paper, A review of the Traralgon Formation in the Gippsland Basin — a world class brown coal resource that justifies the formation of the Gippsland coal reserve in considerable detail. Did you read it before musing that it seems to indicate a rapid event?

A paper like this, including the relevant references, represents a lot of work by many specialists with hard won qualifications. Field work, testing, measuring, coring, mapping, cross referencing, time and effort, and nothing to do with secularism. That effort is not to be breezily dismissed as a majority vote, as if it were nothing more than a coffee claque show of hands. And most certainly, it has nothing to do with any still small voices.


Do you have and “either/or” approach to this issue? That is “either” you agree xyz about the origins and age of the earth and the Universe —or you are some sort of nonbeliever? As for YEC claiming that all dinosaurs died out in the flood — I remember hearing that approach, although it was many years ago and perhaps the story has changed or “some do” and “some don’t” believe they all died in the flood…

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That is a fallacy of modern intellectual construct. It has also be dubunked at great length by scholars…its a mute point St Roymond and it doesnt stand up to theological test against referenced scripture. We can go down this rabbit warren again if necessary but honestly, its a timewasting argument…up to you.

Let me simply illustrate using a single point that is highly problematic for such an argument:

Iin using your claim above, you make the statement that Genesis 1 is allegorical and that the death God warned Adam and Eve about should they eat of the tree in the middle of the garden, was not a physical death. yours is the claim it is spiritual death.

The issue is, scriptire simply does not support your claim of spiritual only death…

Christ (God) humbled himself taking on the form of his own creation (a man),

Was incarnate and live physcially among his own creation revealing the Father to us,

He was baptised phsycially,

He ministered physically,

He was tortured and crucified physically on the cross (atonement for the wages of sin is death which is also in fulfillment of the Old Testament Sanctuary service atonement service over thousands of years),

Then he physically rose again 3 days (parts of days actually) later, addressed doubting thomas with a statement of physcial touch to affirm He was alive…after he had already ascended into heaven to present Himself to the Father (again in fulfillment of the Old Testament Sanctuary Service)

Ministered physically to over 500 people for weeks after his ressurection,

He ascended physically into heaven.

If the death of Adam and Eve was spiritual…how do you reconcile that with physical atonement by Christ for the wages of sin is death?

Again, looking for loopholes. The article you cite is an exception to the rule. YEC apologists seize on every recognized anomaly and then try to make that exception the rule. Do you understand shale? It’s not generic “mud.” Shale is made from the fine particles that kick up and make the water cloudy when you walk into body of water. It has to settle and be covered by other sediments before it can even start to solidify into rock. That can’t happen in turbulent waters, such as a flood. It’s simple common sense, as well as settled geology. If YEC claims a global flood is responsible for depositing sedimentary rock layers, then it has zero explanation for the alternating bands of shale and sandstone (not mud) found in the Haymond formation.

It’s not just a majority vote. Everyone who exists outside the very small YEC bubble recognizes the world and the universe are ancient. It’s an obvious fact, just like the earth is a globe and not flat.

I appreciate your point about Elijah. I think all of us here who call ourselves Christian have heard that still, small voice, but it’s not found in nature, and you completely misunderstand if you think anyone here is a believer in Jesus because we found him in nature in or natural theology.

You’ve talked to a bunch of Christians on this site. All of us seek the still, small voice, and none of us come from a position of secularism or “there is no God.” Unless, of course, you deny that we’re Christians because we don’t accept your particular interpretation of scripture.

As for not finding God in the grandeur of his creation, let’s clarify. No one “finds” God simply through contemplating the beauty or infinite expanse of creation, but if you can’t take in those things and be awestruck, I pity you.


No, it hasn’t – no scholar will tell you that scripture can be read apart from a worldview, and the worldview that people use when they haven’t studied to learn the worldview of the writer is the one they grew up in – and all of us grew up with a modernist worldview.

How many times do you have to be admonished? STOP THE LYING.

Already answered, multiple times. I don’t know if you actually can’t remember what people have written here or if you’re being deliberately obtuse or if you’re so blinded by your narrow view of things that you actually fail to grasp any meaning that isn’t in your box of possible ideas, but none of those looks very good.


It also doesn’t even touch on what Adam was responding to – the article can be found here:

and it doesn’t at all address the matter of tracks left in mud.

Or what we saw in samples in geology class, mudstone topped by shale topped by sandstone. The first two can be plausibly explained by a mild event where mud was being deposited in a way that stirred up the really fine particles to settle on top of the coarser (relative to the fine particles) ones; the particles in shale are so small that they will be last to settle in any single event. Then sandstone on top of shale requires very mild deposition conditions that don’t start until the particles in the shale are not just settled but clinging together so that the new flow bearing sand won’t disturb the top of the preceding layer – and it’s not hard to tell the difference since if the shale particles are disturbed while sand is being deposited you get ‘dirty’ sandstone.
There is no possible process where such alternating layers could be deposited by one highly turbulent event; it’s not just contrary to observed processes, it’s contrary to physics.

A final note about just how small the particles that make up shale are: water that is ‘muddy’ from such particles can be extremely close to being a colloid, and in fact where the water chemistry is right it can take a few weeks or longer for the particles to settle (standard geology demo: shake up a jar of water mixed with particles fine enough to become shale and let it sit; the water will generally still be cloudy when midterms roll around and often right up to finals).

Especially when many of the processes for forming different formations can be observed in the field and/or the lab. We did field trips where we hiked across gravel and sand beds in late spring after the river had dropped low enough and it was actually possible to watch how different particles separate, for example when coming into slightly deeper water the larger grains would settle out while the fines continued to be carried along. If you know what you’re looking for it’s possible to reconstruct the behavior of a river from the start of spring floods right along to summer (and such reconstructions have been confirmed by putting in cameras, flow meters, and other instruments to record the actual events, then having the events reconstructed from examining the deposits by people without access to the recordings).


It strikes me, as someone who comes at the question from the text, that YECists have no choice but to hold to the lie that it’s only due to “secularism” that Old Testament scholars deny the validity of YEC – if they don’t hold to that lie then they have to admit that they are holding a worldview that doesn’t come from the scriptures at all.

Though it can be a starting point, as those atheist and agnostic students I knew who – due to studying evolution – concluded there must be a Designer and then set about looking for where that Designer might have communicated with Her/His/Its intelligent creatures.


Completely unsorted deposits are also a problem–everything from shells larger than my hand down to fine clay that takes weeks to settle out of still water (let alone alternating between sandier and muddier layers over and over in a single deposit) is impossible to get out of a single flood event.


And that’s why the 75,000 feet of sedimentary rock lie beneath New Orleans. Good explanation. Thanks.

Sure, it can be a starting point, but as Pascal observed long ago, the knowledge of God that can be gleaned from natural revelation is very far from Christian faith.

Speaking of New Orleans and silt as a native Texan, the Mississippi River is the reason you have to go miles off the Texas coast before you hit blue water. The Gulf currents carry the silt from the Mississippi all the way down the coast to Mexico, so Texas beaches are shallow, the waves can’t be surfed, and the water is brown as far as the eye can see. Thanks for nothing, geology!


Newcomers to the coast here often think something is terribly wrong when they look out and see brown surf and then beyond it brown rollers. That was really common once the south jetty here was completed, which focused the tidal current and that started to carve away at the sides of channels, thus pulling off immense amounts of sediments.

There are ash beds in the bay from old and ancient forest fires, and when one of those is affected by the current carving away sediment the surf can turn an ugly dark gray – that really freaks people out! . . . or at least used to; I haven’t heard of one of those in at least a dozen years.
[some people have seriously suggested that the ash zones have explosives placed that would be blown during a heavy storm so all the crud would wash out to sea, the reason being that ash zones tend to be nearly sterile]

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