Bituminous coals from a wide range of sources (including Australia, New Zealand, Europe, China, South America, Canada, the US and South Africa) were characterised by their capacity for gas sorption, rate of gas sorption of CO2 and CH4, and their nanoporosity (pore size distribution less than 50 nm radius) in order to identify the relationships between them. The following new relationships were established:
The rate of gas sorption was unrelated to the capacity for gas sorption. The rate of gas sorption for CH4 and CO2 increased exponentially with the amount of total and accessible porosity in the size range 8–50 nm (with no influence of coal origin on the relationship being discerned), suggesting that the extent of porosity of coals in this size range controls the rates of gas sorption in coals. In contrast, the capacity for gas sorption was only weakly related to pore numbers in this size range, which shows that the number of 8–50 nm pores do not control capacity for gas sorption. Moreover, this difference in relationship shows the number of pores of the size where gas is sorbed predominantly (<5 nm) does not correlate strongly with the number of larger pores.
Both the number of pores and rates of gas sorption tended to increase with inertinite content but the relationship with inertinite content differed for coals from different sources. The inertinite-rich coals from Australia (except those from the Illawarra region) had both the greatest porosity and gas penetration rates, whereas in coals sourced from other regions, although the gas penetration rate increased with inertinite content, the effect was not so strong. The rates of sorption in the inertinite-rich coals also tended to decrease with increasing rank below 0.9% Rv,max. In contrast to the results obtained with kinetic studies, we found no overall trend of capacity for gas sorption with maceral composition, though the Australian bituminous coals generally had greater capacity than the other bituminous coals examined. This suggests that not only the number of 8–50 nm pores in coals sourced from Australia (not those from the Illawarra region) and elsewhere are different, the number density of accessible <5 nm pores (not directly measurable in coals by SANS) may also be systematically different between these coals.
The relationships developed in this study have important implications in predicting coal structure, fundamental understanding of gas transport through coal beds, and explaining the variation of coking properties of coals sourced from Australia and elsewhere.