Cooking Up Some Coal

Pax Christi everybody!

I understand that coal takes millions of years to form, but specifically, how many years would you estimate formation at?

As long as it takes to bury peat beds with kilometres of sediment or lava.


Depends what type of coal, and what conditions: it can take as little as a few million, under high pressure, to produce lignite; and as much as several hundred million under somewhat lower pressure to produce anthracite.


Nine months. Reported in 1983, researchers at Argonne National Laboratory have used clay catalysts to transform lignin into an artificial coal in a low temperature process in nine months.

I would like to learn more. Can you kindly provide a link to the original research?


Interesting. I’ve heard many of these type of stories. Although many things are possible, many are not likely. What people don’t realize is that it is not simply good enough to give a possible explanation (there can be many). Explanations are arrived at generally over time with many confirming experiments and tests. As well, consilience takes place between subjects and areas that show independent confirmation between areas of science. Science is by nature conservative and usually there aren’t “decisive tests” that overturn the existing order. However, there are exceptions, such when a new revolutionary technology makes something totally new possible. What is “new” is so unequivocal, certain and decisive that older scientists and older ideas are obviously superseded. In these cases, the new order can quickly replace the old.

Evolutionary theory by natural selection etc. is confirmed over many different areas. Although there are lots of details still to be worked out including how molecules evolved into more complex organisms. Most scientists are confident that mechanisms and models will be developed to help us fill in the details including many Christians.


Fair enough. That establishes that some processes can happen quickly under some circumstances. Nobody is doubting that. But it falls far, far short of showing that all processes must have happened quickly under conditions that could realistically have been present in Earth’s history.


Yes. For instance, I don’t think it can answer this:

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Pax Christi, Craig!

Is this like the lab diamonds, where they generated tiny crystals from previously existing ones in a highly regulated environment?

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Chem. Eng. News 1983, 61, 47, 42–43

Publication Date:November 21, 1983



This is very fascinating, but we should keep in mind the key word artificial before getting ahead of ourselves.


We should also keep in mind this sentence from the abstract:

“In fact, he maintains, there is no incontrovertible evidence to support any particular theory of coalification.”

Also, this (sentence, anyway) is referring to how plant material becomes lignite, not how lignite becomes anthracite.

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Seems to me the point is that we can in theory reverse the process by which we have dumped all this CO2 into the atmosphere. IF we are willing to take the effort and expense to do so. At the very least we produce can our own fuels from the CO2 already in the atmosphere with such means instead of what we are doing now which is unwise.

Likely this coal making process isn’t the most efficient way of doing it. It seems to me the most logical way is taking advantage of the increased algae production due to higher CO2 in the atmosphere and convert that into biofuel. The goal should be renewable energy so that we can at least halt the increase of carbon in the atmosphere. It is frankly going to happen one way or another. Hopefully we can do it before too many people die… which asks the question… how many are too many? We seem to be devising many ways of reducing the human population these days. Perhaps it will reach an equilibrium at some point?


Does anyone in this thread have the PDF of the Argonne scientists article? I do not have access. My understanding of the license (if you have access) is that it can be shared in a non-public way for educational purposes under the fair use doctrine.


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It would have to be shared via PM then?

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Yes (11 character filler).


An article related to the subject. Bio-coal is not coal, but for the purpose of fuel, may be useful. Of course, charcoal has been used for years. I suppose it lacks the energy density of coal, but is less bulky and easier to manage than wood. It was common for the Saharawi people to make it from the scattered acacia trees in the desert for use in brewing tea when we visited. They usually used bottled gas for cooking.


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