General information and occurrence
Peat is an organic sediment originated in a humid environment as a result of an accumulation and peat-formation of an organic matter mainly of a plant origin. The peat-formation process is generally based on the partial organic matter decomposition in a limited oxygen access. There are physical, chemical and microbiological transformations occurring during this process. Depending on environmental conditions and a type of the turfogenic vegetation (biotope), as well as on accumulation conditions and changes of these factors, various types and kinds of peat are formed. They differ in their appearance, composition and properties.
According to genetic features, there are low, high and medium peat distinguished. The low peat originates on peatlands (low) occurring in swampy river valleys, in ground dips and on lake edges. That type of peat is reach in food ingredients supplied by surface and deep-seated water. The high peat originates on peatlands (high) located on divides or within the zones located above the surrounding areas which are supplied only by rainwater. They are characterized by a low content of the food ingredients and higher acidity than the low peat. The medium peat combines the features of both peat types mentioned above. Most of peat originated in the late-Quaternary, mainly in the Holocene.
The distribution of peatlands and peat deposits is uneven in Poland. They commonly occur in northern and north-western Poland and within the Lubelszczyzna area. In other regions their number, thickness and dispersion decrease.
Peatlands are the element of wetlands ecosystem. Natural and dehydrated wetlands cover the area of about 4.4 million hectares in Poland, that is 14.2% of the total country area. There have been about 52 thousands of peatlands (each with an area exceeding 1 hectare) catalogued. They cover an area of about 1.3 million hectares in total and it accounts for 30% of wetlands area and 4% of the area of Poland. Low peatlands dominate, accounting for more than 92%, high peatlands account for about 4.7%, whereas medium peatlands for about 3%. The peat beds thickness is of 1.6 m on average (maximum of 11.5 m)*.
According to the Regulation of the Minister of the Environment of the 1st of July 2015 regarding the geological documentation of a mineral raw material deposit, excluding a hydrocarbons field (Journal of Laws 2015, Item 987) the limit values of the parameters that define the raw material deposit and its boundaries are (Appendix 8):
- peat deposits (table 5):
the minimum deposit thickness 1 m; the maximum ratio of overburden thickness to mineral deposit thickness 0.5; the maximum ash content in dry peat - 30%;
- therapeutical peat deposits – muds (table 6):
the minimum deposit thickness 1 m; the maximum ratio of overburden thickness to mineral deposit thickness 0.5; the maximum non-organic matter content in dry mass 25%; the minimum grade of decomposition 30% (H3); the bacteriological valuation (coli titer) ≥1.0; the coli titer perfringens ≥1.0;
- mud silts deposits (table 7):
the minimum deposit thickness 1 m; the maximum ratio of overburden thickness to mineral deposit thickness 0.5; the maximum non-organic matter content in dry mass 80%; minimum grade of decomposition 30% (H3); the bacteriological valuation (coli titer) ≥1.0; the coli titer perfringens ≥1.0.
Nowadays, a so-called “agriculture peat” is used mainly in the agriculture, gardening (mushroom growing), fruit-growing, forestry and in the reclamation processes. Such peat is characterized by the features improving a soil structure and air-water conditions. Peat is also a base for the production of a garden peat, a peat base, mineral peat mixtures and an agriculture peat.
Therapeutical peat – muds – is used in balneology for peat baths, poultices and for the production of medicine items and cosmetics. Such muds have to be of a proper microbiologically cleanness, in an advanced decay of organic matter, of a smooth mud consistency, with a high content of active organic compounds and of a moisture content over 75% and should not be affected by freezing and defreezing. An application of muds for therapeutical purposes in health treatment (and also other natural therapeutical raw materials) is regulated by: the Act of the 28th of July 2005 on Health Resort Medical Care, Health Resorts and Health Resort Protection Areas and Health Resort Counties (Journal of Laws 2005, Item 1301, unified text) and the Regulation by the Minister of Health of the 13th of April 2006 on the scope of studies necessary to establish therapeutical features of natural therapeutical raw materials and therapeutical features of climate, criteria for their assessment and the certificate template confirming such features (Journal of Laws 2018, Item 605, unified text).
In the past, peat in Poland was also used as a fuel, a raw material for chemical industry, for production of a cardboard, fiberboard and as a sorbent. Nowadays, there are imported briquettes and pellets made of peat available on Polish market – they are used as fuel.
There are most important peat deposits (with muds marked out) presented on the map.
Resources and output
As of the end of 2021, the anticipated economic resources of peat (agriculture and therapeutical) amounted to 94.254 million m3, including: the agriculture peat resources equal 84.075 million m3 accounting for 89.2% of the total resources, and the therapeutical peat resources equal 10.179 million m3 accounting for 10.8% of the total resources.
In comparison with the previous year, the resources above mentioned increased by 2.688 million m3 (2.9%) in total, including: the agriculture peat resources grew by 2.655 million m3 (3.3%), whereas the therapeutical peat resources increased by 0.033 million m3 (0.3%).
There were twelve new deposits included in “The balance…”, including:
- ten deposits of the agriculture peat: Andrzejów III (0.065 million m3), Andrzejów IV (0.081 million m3), Andrzejów V (0.098 million m3), Michałów I (0.043 million m3), Michałów II (0.012 million m3) in Lubelskie Voivodeship (total resources 0.299 million m3); Stare Glinki (0.041 million m3) in Mazowieckie Voivodeship; Klejniki–Gorodczyno (2.928 million m3) in Podlaskie Voivodeship; Mnin II (0.561 million m3) in Świętokrzyskie Voivodeship; Bucz KI I (0.050 million m3) and Radawnica 1 (0.031 million m3) in Wielkopolskie Voivodeship – the resources increase for the agriculture peat amount in total to 3.911 million m3;
- two deposits of the therapeutical peat (muds): Borek (0.021 million m3) in Opolskie Voivodeship, Park Słowackiego (0.017 million m3) in Warmińsko-Mazurskie Voivodeship – the resources growth for the muds amount in total to about 0.038 million m3.
The total resources growth coming from new deposits documentations is equal 3.949 million m3 of the agriculture peat and the muds.
Geological documentations of eleven of above mentioned deposits were approved in 2021, whereas the documentation of the Borek deposit was approved in 2000 but this deposit has not been included intio “The balance…” so far (the deposit has not been exploited so far). There were also two new documentations with recalculated resources (supplements) approved for the agriculture peat: the resources of the exploited Sienno I deposit were updated (Kujawsko-Pomorskie Voivodeship), and the Andrzejów II/1 deposit (Lubelskie Voivodeship) was crossed out from the registry after the resources of this deposit had been settled (depleted deposit).
The total peat output amounted in 2021 to 1,242.52 thousand m3 and decreased by 70.50 thousand m3 (5.4%) in comparison with 2020. The exploitation was carried out from 63 deposits (the output from three deposits ended in 2021; the output from four deposits started). The agriculture peat was exploited from 54 deposits. The output was equal 1,238.43 thousand m3 (99.7% of the total peat output) and decreased by 65.39 thousand m3 (5.0%) in comparison with 2020. For the particular deposits the output volumes varied significantly – between 0.1 and 141 thousand m3. The therapeutical peat was exploited from nine deposits. The output amounted to 4.09 thousand m3 of muds (0.3% of the total peat output) – by 5.11 thousand m3 (55.5%) less than in the previous year. The output volumes for particular deposits varied from several cubic meters to 2.07 thousand m3. The much significant output drop of muds was probably caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the reduction of therapeutical activity of health resorts.
Regarding the particular Voivodeships, the peat output (agriculture and muds) was as follows (descending sequence): Zachodniopomorskie Voivodeship 0.280 million m3 (22.5% of the domestic output), Lubeskie Voivodeship 0.214 million m3 (17.2%), Mazowieckie Voivodeship 0.178 million m3 (14.3%), Podlaskie Voivodeship 0.141 million m3 (11.3%), Warmińsko-Mazurskie Voivodeship 0.141 million m3 (11.3%), Wielkopolskie Voivodeship 0.105 million m3 (8.5%), Lubuskie Voivodeship 0.098 million m3 (7.9%), Pomorskie Voivodeship 0.064 million m3 (5.2%), Kujawsko-Pomorskie Voivodeship 0.011 million m3 (0.9%), Podkarpackie Voivodeship 0.007 million m3 (0.6%), Świętokrzyskie Voivodeship 0.002 million m3 (0.2%), Śląskie Voivodeship 0.001 million m3 (0.1%), In Dolnośląskie, Łódzkie, Małopolskie and Opolskie Voivodeships the exploitation has not been carried out.
The figure given below shows changes in domestic resources and production of peat in Poland in the years 1995-2021.
The economic resources of peat are determined for 56 deposits and amount to 33.286 million m3, including: 29.613 million m3 (89.0%) of the agriculture peat and 3.673 million m3 (11.0%) of the muds. The resources decreased by 1.436 million m3 (4.1%) in comparison with the previous year.
Temporarily, peat is exploited in the vicinities of Bełchatów during the process of making the brown coal beds available for mining. In 2021, from the overburden of the Bełchatów-pole Szczerców deposit, there were 0.061 million m3 of peat obtain (the volume is not included into the data given above and in the tables 1 and 2).
Table 1 shows resources and the current state of exploration and development of peat deposits.
The state of the resources exploration and the state of the deposits development, together with the output amounts from particular deposits are presented in the following tables: Table 2 – the agriculture peat; Table 3 – the therapeutical peat (muds). There are two deposits marked with *: Puścizna Wielka and Bronów A, in which both the agriculture peat and the muds have been documented.
The prognostic resources of peat in Poland are assessed to be equal at least 335.95 million m3 within at least 2,059 areas characterized by the deposit potential**. The majority, that is almost 77.2%, is located in the northern part of Poland, within the following Voivodeships: Zachodniopomorskie (8.7%), Pomorskie (28.2%), Kujawsko-Pomorskie (6.3%), Warmińsko-Mazurskie (17.9%) and Podlaskie (16.1%). The significant resources base is also located in Lubelskie (10.5%) and Małopolskie (8.0%) Voivodeships. The mentioned above Voivodeships cover 46% of the area of Poland and account for 95.7% of the prognostic resources of peat. Only 4.6% of the prognostic resources is located within the remaining 54% of the country area.
Prepared by: Wojciech Szczygielski
* System Informacji Przestrzennej o Mokradłach Polski; http://www.gis-mokradla.info/html/index.php?page=mokradla, Instytut Technologiczno-Przyrodniczy – Państwowy Instytut Badawczy (the Institute of Technology and Life Sciences – National Research Institute) [in Polish].
** Kasiński J.R., 2020 - "Torf (peat)". In: "Bilans perspektywicznych zasobów kopalin Polski wg stanu na 31.12.2018 r." (eds. Szamałek K., Szuflicki M., Mizerski W.): 382-386. PIG-PIB, Warszawa [in Polish].