POWDER RIVER COAL COMPANY
GILLETTE, WYOMING

This page was created by Kassie Hertz, Lakeview Elementary School.


COAL FORMATION

Coal is a fossil fuel that formed around 400 million years ago. Coal can be called "buried sunshine" because the plants used photosynthesis to collect energy from the sun to develop compounds that created plant tissues. When coal was formed, the earth was covered with swamps. Plants died and the remains settled to the bottom of the swampy area, creating layers of a soggy dense material called peat. As time passed, the makeup of the earth's crust changed. Seas and rivers caused sand, clay, and other mineral matter to build up, burying the peat. Sandstone and other sedimentary rocks formed, creating pressure that squeezed water from the peat. As more layers formed, the weight and pressure turned the peat into coal. Carbon is the most important element in plant material, because it gives coal its energy. About three to seven feet of compacted plant matter, or peat, is required to form one foot of bituminous coal.


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